A Rediscovery of Clifford D. Simak - A Reading Challenge

Hugh

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Goodnewsgoodnewsgoodnews for Simak enthusiasts

Francis Lyall's "Clifford D. Simak - an Affectionate Appreciation" becomes available on the 17th January

Frank was the editor of those Simak short story collections published in the 1980/90s (*listed at end of post) and knew Cliff well. I've been looking forward to this very much.

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Here's the UK Amazon link:

*If you're into old paperback collections, here they are...
So Bright the Vision
The Marathon Photograph
The Autumn Land and Other Stories
Immigrant and Other Stories
Off-Planet
Brother and Other Stories
The Civilisation Game and Other Stories (hardback)
The Creator and Other Stories (hardback)
 
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paulannis

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Thanks to all of you for the info -- I had no idea that the prices across the waters were so high... Wow!
I cannot imagine that Open Road is really responsible for this...well, at least not entirely responsible -- my hunch is it's Amazon (but I know nothing of Booktopia or Book Depository).
I cannot think of anything I could do about it. But if an opportunity presents itself that might at least register that I'm unhappy about it, I'll whisper in Open Road ears...

Greetings. I'm a new member based in the UK. I have just rediscovered this site which I first stumbled upon a couple of years ago.

I came across The Complete Short Fiction of Clifford D. Simak in 2017, and ordered the first three volumes in paperback. I'd never read much Simak before — just a few short stories in anthologies over the years — and had decided I would like to read more. Since 2017 I've been monitoring the situation, as more volumes were published electronically. I continued to hope that more volumes would appear in print.

Finally in early November 2019 I sent an email to marketing@openroadmedia.com, the most promising contact address I could find, to ask when the last two volumes would be published, and whether the whole series would be made available in paperback. I don't know whether my message got through, as I received no reply, but I hoped that it might provide some encouragement.

So the news that five more volumes will be appear as print-on-demand (POD) paperbacks this year is excellent news. I would just like to encourage others not to worry about the prices listed on Amazon. These days, it seems to be usual for Amazon to list books at the full recommended retail price, and then to drop the price after publication, so I am sure the prices of these books will drop once the POD publication date has passed.

In any case, I find I can get most books more cheaply from other online sellers. I bought one of the Simak Short Fiction volumes from an Amazon third-party seller, and the other seller from other online sources. All were new copies, not even "Like New".

UK-based purchasers should try the following sites: Book Depository (which is owned by Amazon but is occasionally cheaper), Books Etc., Booksplease, Wordery, SpeedyHen, Blackwell's.

These are their current prices for A Death in the House And Other Stories:

Book Depository — £23.99
Books Etc. — £15.61
Booksplease — not listed
Wordery — £17.19
SpeedyHen — not listed
Blackwell's — £15.99

SpeedyHen and Booksplease will probably have the five new POD volumes in due course, as they do list the POD editions of the first three books. Booksplease in particular often takes a while to add items to their listings.

I'm looking forward to the next five volumes. Many thanks to Dave Wixon for all the work he has put into this series.
 

Hugh

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UK-based purchasers should try the following sites: Book Depository (which is owned by Amazon but is occasionally cheaper), Books Etc., Booksplease, Wordery, SpeedyHen, Blackwell's.

These are their current prices for A Death in the House And Other Stories:

Book Depository — £23.99
Books Etc. — £15.61
Booksplease — not listed
Wordery — £17.19
SpeedyHen — not listed
Blackwell's — £15.99

SpeedyHen and Booksplease will probably have the five new POD volumes in due course, as they do list the POD editions of the first three books. Booksplease in particular often takes a while to add items to their listings.

I'm looking forward to the next five volumes. Many thanks to Dave Wixon for all the work he has put into this series.

Thank you Paul for listing these comparative prices. I've just purchased from Books etc.
15.68 today, while Amazon still lists at 23.99. I was unwilling to buy from Amazon at their price.
 

Hugh

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I've just posted some comments on Francis Lyall's "Clifford D. Simak: An Affectionate Appreciation" in the February 2020 Reading thread. It should be available here:

you'll have to scroll down the page to entry 110.

 
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The Judge

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For those too lazy to scroll, here's Hugh's post direct February 2020 Reading Thread

(For anyone wondering if it's my mod powers that allows me to do that, I don't think it is. At the top right of every post there's a number. Click on that and the address-thingummy at the top of the page that you copy to get the link shows the Chrons thread reference and page number as usual but also the post number itself.)
 

Hugh

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Aha! Many thanks @The Judge
I've added a further comment here re Simak's personal favourites:

yes this does work, despite the unpromising text below...

 

Hugh

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So the news that five more volumes will be appear as print-on-demand (POD) paperbacks this year is excellent news. I would just like to encourage others not to worry about the prices listed on Amazon. These days, it seems to be usual for Amazon to list books at the full recommended retail price, and then to drop the price after publication, so I am sure the prices of these books will drop once the POD publication date has passed.

In any case, I find I can get most books more cheaply from other online sellers. I bought one of the Simak Short Fiction volumes from an Amazon third-party seller, and the other seller from other online sources. All were new copies, not even "Like New".

UK-based purchasers should try the following sites: Book Depository (which is owned by Amazon but is occasionally cheaper), Books Etc., Booksplease, Wordery, SpeedyHen, Blackwell's.

These are their current prices for A Death in the House And Other Stories:

Book Depository — £23.99
Books Etc. — £15.61
Booksplease — not listed
Wordery — £17.19
SpeedyHen — not listed
Blackwell's — £15.99

I'm looking forward to the next five volumes. Many thanks to Dave Wixon for all the work he has put into this series.
Many thanks again @paulannis for suggesting buying from sellers other than Amazon. I've now bought all five of the new volumes from Books Etc - @£40.00 cheaper overall than the Amazon listings.
 

Hugh

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Well, many thanks @2DaveWixon!

I finally got round to reading one of your Open Road Collections: Volume Five, "No Life of Their Own" and it's a real joy.

Although I've read all the SF stories before, at least twice, enough time has gone by that I've actually managed to forget much of the detail, and reading them in the new format instead of in old battered paperbacks/ disintegrating pulps/ photocopies, alongside your introductions, is like coming at them afresh.

Many thanks! I look forward to the other seven paperbacks I've had on the shelf waiting for such a moment.
 
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Hugh

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Many thanks again @2DaveWixon . I've just read through the eight paperback editions of "The Complete Short Fiction". A joy. I'd been waiting for the point when it felt sufficient time had elapsed since my last significant read through. yes, a joy. Tremendous achievement of yours to have brought these out. Reading them in a different context (not in the old paperbacks etc) with your introductions really felt as if I was coming at them completely afresh.
I'll now email Open Road asking them to bring out the next four in paperback (who knows, they might get round to it.)

In the meantime I hope very much that your wife continues her recovery.
 

2DaveWixon

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Just to let you all know that the fault for Open Road's failure to publish the last two volumes of the (14-volume) collection of the COMPLETE SHORT FICTION OF CLIFFORD D. SIMAK lies with me -- simply put, I've got those last two volumes all ready to go, except for their introductions...
I'll try to do better.
 

Ralf 58

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Just to let you all know that the fault for Open Road's failure to publish the last two volumes of the (14-volume) collection of the COMPLETE SHORT FICTION OF CLIFFORD D. SIMAK lies with me -- simply put, I've got those last two volumes all ready to go, except for their introductions...
I'll try to do better.
Hello, Dave,
I'm glad to see you here again. And I'll continue to wait patiently, of course. I and many other fans would be very happy if you make it this year.
 

Piman25

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Just to let you all know that the fault for Open Road's failure to publish the last two volumes of the (14-volume) collection of the COMPLETE SHORT FICTION OF CLIFFORD D. SIMAK lies with me -- simply put, I've got those last two volumes all ready to go, except for their introductions...
I'll try to do better.

@2DaveWixon if you are stuck on what to use for the introductions, maybe you could crowd source this group for input. Unlike you, most of us likely didnt have a personal relationship with him, not are we his official archivist. However, the impact his writing has had on our lives probably can't be understated. Maybe include small 'blurbs' from reader's - how we discovered him, thoughts on his impact, etc.

Just an idea
 

Vince W

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I just came across this - its a recording of Clifford Simak's Guest of Honor speech at the Noreascon 1971 WorldCon.

His speech starts at 28:20 minutes into the recording. He thanks Silverberg, as he was toastmaster at that awards ceremony. The rest is quite an interesting history lesson.
Thanks for sharing that, Bick. That was a very intelligent and well written speech. Well worth listening to even now.
 

Ambrose

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I have just re-read 'Time and Again' of 1951. Some bits are odd to a current eye, for example referring to fingerprints for identifying a body. DNA was 25 years later. On the other hand his description of the countryside of the Sutton farm, and that whole area, so clearly draws on his love of his childhood experiences, fishing, birds, trees etc etc. Most refreshing. Also there are themes raised that he was later to explore more thoroughly.
 

TomMazanec

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I really loved his "No Life of Their Own" when I read it as a kid. In college I tried to find that story, but couldn't remember the author or title (and this was when the internet was just for government laboratories). But I recognized the story flipping through a book in a bookstore. Bought it on the spot.
It was one of the few books I kept from my Great Book Sale of 2005.
 

Piman25

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Just to let you all know that the fault for Open Road's failure to publish the last two volumes of the (14-volume) collection of the COMPLETE SHORT FICTION OF CLIFFORD D. SIMAK lies with me -- simply put, I've got those last two volumes all ready to go, except for their introductions...
I'll try to do better.
@2DaveWixon Feel like bugging you again. Any update on the final volumes?
 

The Scribbling Man

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Hi all! I've just joined. I've spent most of this morning just lurking on this thread and browsing over all the different reviews, news and musings. It's been a pleasure to read through and find so much information from some excellent sources, as well as hearing people's thoughts on different pieces of Simak's work.

I've been a fan of Simak ever since I read Time and Again about 6 years ago, and ever since he's become a bit of a comfort read for me. I'm a fan of literature in general, but science fiction is one of my favourite genres and Simak is an author I tend to dip back into now and again. In most cases if I see a book of his I haven't read in a shop, I'll pick it up. I tend to gravitate towards near enough anything of his with the exception of those few "fantasy" works that were churned out in his later years, and often I'm most interested by the more obscure works (possibly because I find myself disagreeing with the majority on what his best work is). I like to vary what I read, so I'm slow going and haven't made it through all of what I own, but at the back of my mind I think I would like to eventually read everything he has done. This seems to be much more achievable as well since the complete short works are being published by Open Road (good to see updates for that on here as well).

Although I'm unpublished as of yet, I write a bit and I consider Simak to be one of my biggest influences, alongside others such as Wells, Greene and Bester. I grew up in Cornwall, UK, so while I have never been to Wisconsin (or the US in general, mind) I relate on some level to the rural descriptions and quaint pastoral style he has. I have often tried to evoke something similar in my own writing.

Here are the novels I have read so far, rated (out of 5) and then ranked according to how I've felt about them:

  1. Ring Around The Sun - 4.5
  2. Time and Again - 4 (High 3 on my second read)
  3. Time Is The Simplest Thing - High 2 (while I enjoyed most of the book immensely, I didn't like the direction it took towards the end at all, which brought the rating down by quite a long way. Despite this, I still look back on much of it with fondness and find it hard to rank it as low as maybe seems apt.)
  4. City - 3 (Huddling Place and Desertion are easily the strongest entries. Narratively and conceptually I loved the whole thing, but I found some inconsistencies frustrating and the last few stories to be too plodding and flowery.)
  5. The Werewolf Principle - 3 (audio drama. Doesn't really tap its full potential, but very enjoyable in this format.)
  6. Project Pope - 2.5 (Another poor climax to an otherwise compelling first 2 acts. If it all held together I think this could have been one of his best.)
  7. Why Call Them Back From Heaven? - 3.5
  8. Way Station - 2.5 (a hugely unpopular opinion, I'm aware. Absolutely loved the prose for the most part. Enoch is easily one of Simak's best developed characters and the atmosphere is unmatched. Unfortunately there were just too many elements that I couldn't get on board with. I also thought the climax was clunky and clashed tonally with the rest of the novel.)
  9. All Flesh is Grass - 3 (I read this after Ring Around The Sun, and so it felt to me like a more dated rehash, and the whimsy grated on me more than some of his other novels. One of the few that I found a bit hard to get through)
  10. Cemetery World - 1.5 (loved the initial set up and premise for this, but ultimately found it to be silly and a bit of a mess. I think it's easily one of his worst, but equally it was also a lot of fun.)
  11. A Choice of Gods - High 2 (audiobook. Interesting, but dry and indulgent. Most unusual for Simak)
  12. Our Children's Children - 1 (audiobook)
  13. The Goblin Reservation - 1
  14. Cosmic Engineers - 2
  15. Empire - high 1 (audiobook)


It's true I have not necessarily rated many all that high, and the truth is I often find many of his works to be quite flawed. Equally, I often find that when he's good, he's great, and even the lesser stuff more often than not is very enjoyable. If I've recently had a big slog of a read, it's then that I will often reach for a Simak on my shelf, as I can almost guarantee it will wash away the taste of a bad book and get me to love reading again. I would put down many of the lower ratings to the fact that while many of his novels start off very well, they tend to lose their way a bit in the latter half. So while a lot of joy can be found in the prose and the concepts and the atmosphere, they don't always feel as satisfying by the end as they could be. Ring Around The Sun seems to be the exception for me, of which I read in a day and felt was unusually tight for him.

Also pleasantly surprised to have read in this thread that Simak may have considered Time and Again and Ring Around The Sun to be his best; for a long time I've considered them my favourites and have felt quite alone in that opinion. Having said that though, I found the flaws in Time and Again to be much more apparent when I reread it recently.

I've also read the following collections:

  1. The Night of Puudly - 3.5 (I loved Crying Jag)
  2. The Best of Clifford D. Simak - 3.5 (Highlights: Sunspot Purge, Final Gentleman, The Thing In The Stone, The Autumn Land. The latter is a 5/5 favourite that I've reread a few times now)

I started reading the first Open Road volume a while back, but it was digital (a format I find hard to stick with). I think I got as far as Ogre before I abandoned it (unintentionally).

I am currently reading They Walked Like Men - fun and pulpy; probably not his best so far, but fairly solid. I think @Bick (?) in his review highlighted the passage with the closet scene as being a standout, and that's also a passage that I jotted down for later reference. An oddly descriptive passage amongst otherwise snappy and undecorative prose.

I also have the following on my shelf waiting to be read (in no particular order):

  • Out of Their Minds
  • Destiny Doll
  • Shakespeare's Planet
  • A Heritage of Stars
  • The Visitors (2 copies!)
  • Catface (AKA Mastadonia)


Lastly, just a bit of trivia: my band released a Christmas single recently and because the re-arrangement was by me the art was to be a stocking with my name on, and the items inside intended to depict my personality. I didn't know what would end up in the stocking, but my sister designed the art and had the stocking contain a beer and a book. The book has Simak's name on the cover in small writing. I would share here, but I didn't want to look like I was trying to self-promote!
 

Hugh

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Welcome! It's always great to hear of someone else who values Simak!

Although I read several of his works in my teens, I only started to appreciate him and then track down his stories in my 50s.
 

Bick

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Hi all! I've just joined. I've spent most of this morning just lurking on this thread and browsing over all the different reviews, news and musings. It's been a pleasure to read through and find so much information from some excellent sources, as well as hearing people's thoughts on different pieces of Simak's work.
Thanks for the in-depth and interesting contribution to this thread - much appreciated. I was interested to see you gave Why Call Them Back from Heaven? a high score - I agree, I think its one of his more successful and thoughtful books - but you didn't make any comments on it. I do indeed disagree with you on Way Station - but each to their own, that's fine. I also disagree I think on Cemetery World - it's flawed and a bit disjointed sure, but it was very evocative and interesting for me (I have a soft spot for end of world/lost world type narratives. I also rate All Flesh is Grass highly.

I collected all my reviews that occur in this thread in one place on my site incidentally, in case that's of any interest.
 

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