A Rediscovery of Clifford D. Simak - A Reading Challenge

2DaveWixon

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Another question that David could most likely answer:
In October 2022, the last remaining novels were announced by Open Road Media for June 2023. A cover was used that fits the series design (and which, incidentally, I also like very much).
Sometime in the last few weeks, this image has now been replaced both on Amazon and Barnes & Noble and on the Open Road Media site.

David, do you know why? I think it's a bit of a shame because the design, including the fonts, is quite different from the previous series.

View attachment 103166 View attachment 103167
Left: The cover announced in October - Right: The one now used on all sales pages.
No, I haven't been told about any such change... And it's rather odd, because I had discussed the cover on the left (the "doll" faces) with my editor back when they first had that artwork available -- and she said she liked it. I suppose it's possible that she took the fact that we had that discussion to mean that I disliked it, but she never said that...
The fact that the cover on the right is so different suggests to me that someone higher up in Open Road's marketing process decided to make the change without checking with me or my editor -- or, possibly, decided to use the different artwork only in their markering?
And this has just occurred to me, now that you have shown me this: Two days ago (on Friday) I got my "author's copies" of THE VISITORS and RING AROUND THE SUN, which are due out at the same time as THEY WALKED LIKE MEN -- but they did not send me my copies of the latter book...are they hurrying to change everything? Seems unlikely.
But I cannot speak to my editor just now -- it being Sunday...
 

Matteo

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Firstly, the "new" cover is terrible - and why the need for the quote?
Second, why change the the design on an on-going series of books (especially when a design is already fixed)? Perhaps it doesn't matter so much with E-books (which I don't read) but for print it's nice to have a series with the same design concept.

Oh, and very well done @2DaveWixon for all your efforts with this project. Incredible work.
 

2DaveWixon

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Firstly, the "new" cover is terrible - and why the need for the quote?
Second, why change the the design on an on-going series of books (especially when a design is already fixed)? Perhaps it doesn't matter so much with E-books (which I don't read) but for print it's nice to have a series with the same design concept.

Oh, and very well done @2DaveWixon for all your efforts with this project. Incredible work.
I totally agree with your reactions to the new cover; in fact, I'm rather wondering whether it is in fact the cover that will actually be on the book, or if it might be something created only for the advertising. I'm trying to find out...
 

2DaveWixon

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I totally agree with your reactions to the new cover; in fact, I'm rather wondering whether it is in fact the cover that will actually be on the book, or if it might be something created only for the advertising. I'm trying to find out...
Well, yes and no...
By that I mean that the change in cover, I've just been told, was actually the idea of Barnes & Noble, who told Open Road that they wanted to feature THEY WALKED LIKE MEN as a horror story. Usually Open Road has shown me copies of their cover art for Simak in advance, but B & N's change was implemented so quickly that no one showed it to me. I have just grumped at my editor about it, but I don't expect that to change anything.
 

2DaveWixon

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To all of you great Simak fans: I have spent many years working to get Cliff's stories into the public eye once more, and I'm very proud that we've had so much success... Yes, there have been delays and disappointments along the way, but I have to say that we've come farther than I dared hope -- in the early years of this 21st century I was told by a number of publishers and agents that no one in the SF business would take on such an unusual project. But the age of online publishing, along with the creation of Open Road Media and their hiring of Betsy Mitchell, eventually opened -- pun intended -- a road for me.

I guess it started, for me when Cliff passed away. He had asked me once, as the end neared, if I would want to take on the job of writing his biography, but I was reluctant, thinking that biography was not in my line. And then he ran out of time, at a time when I was three states away... I was not surprised, but I was still shocked.

Thereafter I agreed when his children asked me to run his literary estate, something I was well qualified to do, after my years of working with Gordon Dickson. But to do that, I needed to take inventory of what stories I had to work with, and I found that there were a lot of Simak stories that I had never read -- stories, some of them of which even he had lacked a copy. It took years to locate them all (and, in truth, I continue to be haunted by a feeling that's there's more out there, somewhere...). I had to learn what stories had been written, many of them before I was born and more when I was a child; and I had to get copies of them. That was the nineties.

Somewhere in there, I realized that many science fiction fans had, like me, never had the opportunity to read all those older stories, to learn what made Cliff Simak such a special writer in the earliest years of the genre. On a more personal level, I also wondered if there was a way to show those reader what had made my friend such a special person. I wanted to find some way to make those old stories, many of which had only been published one time (in those early pulp magazines), and never reprinted, available... I thought maybe I'd be able to get some of them reprinted -- perhaps in some specialized anthologies; but I needed to find the stories, and make copies, first...

Then I started typing them into my computer (and lost nine of them in a computer crash). And as I located them, read them, typed them, they got into my head, mixing there with other knowledge, and with my conversations with their author -- and somehow, all of that metamorphosed into the idea of finding a way to reprint ALL of them. That was the beginning of this new century.

All of them? I must have been mad. But my mind wouldn't let go of the idea. I wondered how many volumes they would require, and what sort of format would work. I worked my way through the few journals Cliff had left behind, which frustratingly had many long blank sections but occasionally contained mentions of stories he was working on...often with different titles, so I had to figure out, sometimes, just what story he was referring to when he made an interesting comment.

I had to decide on some order of presentation (I quickly rejected the idea of simple chronological order). I also had to fight with myself over whether to include the westerns and war stories. I had to find a format in which to present them all...I decided to make some introductory remark to each and every story. And then I found it necessary to write essays about aspects of Cliff's life...

In short, in trying to locate all the missing stories, I found myself having to delve into Cliff's (unwritten) biography after all. So I came to bitterly regret that I had not asked him more questions before he died. If so, this would have been a very different project.

I wish I could have done more. Many of Cliff's papers were deposited into the Archives at the University of Minnesota before his death, and many more papers exist. But I'm convinced that what is in all those papers is not the real Cliff -- his reserved personality did not allow him to open himself on paper to very many people; and that is why the biographical material I have inserted into the volumes of the Collection consists mainly of things he told me, in person, in those few years in which we could still sit together and just talk -- things which reading his old stories brought back out of my memory.

So, in an odd way, this 14-volume collection of Cliff Simak's stories is his biography. For a person like him, a collection of the data-points of his life would be a failure as a biography; it is my hope that presenting his short stories shows more of his personality than would simple data (including his novels would, yes, allow even more of his person to show up, but that would get rather unwieldly very quickly). For the fiction he wrote was highly personal to him -- he very much disliked talking with anyone about what he was working on; it was just too private, and that's why it is valuable for helping us look into his mind, and to see what he was thinking about and how his thinking moved along the path of his life. And that's also why he never went back to re-read his old work, and why he so seldom collaborated with other writers -- and why he so seldom wrote sequels or story-series. I think almost all of his stories show how his mind took up a concept and worked with it, working at its problem until he felt he had reached some sort of conclusion. And he generally did that all in the sanctuary of his own mind; very seldom did he open his thinking to anyone else until he was ready to send off a story -- and once he did that, he was seldom willing to revisit it.
 
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2DaveWixon

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When I started that last post, it was my intention to give heartfelt thanks to those of you who have said nice things about my work.
Alas, I got sidetracked by my own mind, and the post turned out to be something completely different... (Like, that has never happened to me before!)

So, this time for sure: thank you very, very much, @THX1138, @danielus, @Matteo, @Ralf 58, @Piman25, @Hugh -- and anyone else I missed.
 

danielus

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Dear Mr. Wixon:
Your work has been and is wonderful, it has been three years since I started my "fan translations" on the author we love so much.
Without your work, of course, it would have been impossible.
Each introduction to the stories also gave us a snippet of Mr. Simak's biography that we would never have known, adding insight into each one.
Regarding the cover, it is very annoying, I can only afford ebooks, but I think it is a mistake to change the line they maintained.
For paper collectors it must be worse, but I guess it can't be helped. In my opinion, it is a painful mistake.
I can only thank you for all you have done to maintain Mr. Simak's legacy.

Best wishes.
 

Ralf 58

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Hello David,
Your attempt to address words of thanks to us has resulted in a real little essay. Thank you very much for that.
Your text can also be read as a tribute to Cliff and that fits very well: Today is the 35th anniversary of his death.
For me it also means that ten years ago today I started my international bibliography. After a long time, I have finally updated it again.

If you want to have a look: Clifford D. Simak - The International Bibliography - History
 

Piman25

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@2DaveWixon - Dave, I know you struggled with the introductions to the final volumes of The Complete Short Fiction of Clifford D. Simak. You did a great job on the intro for Bucket of Diamonds. The absence of some traditional SciFi elements, is something that fascinates me and in many ways drew me to Simak. It it something I have discussed with others over the years.

Well done.

I am enjoying my reading journey. Thank you for making ot possible.
 

Bick

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Book 15: Our Children's Children - Novel, 1974

childrenschildren.jpg


Published in 1974, Our Children's Children made for an enjoyable return to the worlds of Cliff Simak, though this is probably not one of his finest novels. A newsman sipping whiskey in a back garden sees strangely dressed people walking out of a dark 'door' that opens up at the base of an ancient oak tree. When this strange phenomenon continues through many such portals around the world, it becomes clear that the population of the future are fleeing their time to arrive in our present.

It transpires that our children's children are fleeing their time to escape the ravages of intelligent hunter-killer aliens. The stakes in the present rise when it's appreciated that the aliens may also find a way back to our time. This sounds like a terrific concept, and a great opportunity for an exciting reading experience. However, while it is a decent read, it is tantalizing (rather frustrating) in the arm's reach stance it takes with the action, at least in the main. Simak's usual approach in novels is to focus on an unimportant 'everyman', usually a farmer or blue-collar tradesman. From this perspective he typically wrings a lot of emotion, pathos and homespun wisdom.

In this novel, scenes skip between various points of view at a very high level: the President, the president's press secretary, an old-hand congressman, and so on. While there are scenes 'on the ground' they skip between different points of view, lacking continuity and a hold on the reader. As such it is less immediate and engrossing than Simak's finest novels that retain a tight focus at ground level. That said, there are interesting things here; Simak makes many more political points that is usual for him - not in a sense of left-wing or right-wing party politics, but in the sense of criticisms of social structures and the likely response of humanity to crisis. Overall, it's an interesting read, with a fair bit to enjoy, though it may be likely to disappoint ardent Simak fans who would perhaps expect something a little different.
 

2DaveWixon

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Greetings. Apart from aging, I've been busy writing technical law stuff, including on Space Law.
Of course you have been doing Space Law -- that's what you do! Glad you're still out there and feeling well enough -- I know about the "aging" part...
I was surprised to find you in Chrons, but very pleased. Stay in touch!
 

Ambrose

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Will do. After the book - 3rd ed pending - I nay update my Cliff book if I can use some of your intro to the various stories in the collected series.
 

Steven Shaviro

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Dear Dave Wixon, in my book of science fiction criticism Extreme Fabulations (published in 2021), I wrote a chapter about Clifford Simak's short story "Shadow Show." It is a story that haunted me for decades, since I first encountered it as a teenager. I have purchased all the volumes of Simak's complete short fiction for my Kindle as they came out; I am extremely happy that the final (14th) volume, which I have pre-ordered and which should appear on my Kindle tomorrow morning, finally contains "Shadow Show" (which I cannot help thinking of as "my" Simak story, because I have spent so much time with it over the years - which doesn't mean I think it is necessarily better than many others). Thank you for taking on the monumental task of bringing all these stories back into print.
 

2DaveWixon

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Dear Dave Wixon, in my book of science fiction criticism Extreme Fabulations (published in 2021), I wrote a chapter about Clifford Simak's short story "Shadow Show." It is a story that haunted me for decades, since I first encountered it as a teenager. I have purchased all the volumes of Simak's complete short fiction for my Kindle as they came out; I am extremely happy that the final (14th) volume, which I have pre-ordered and which should appear on my Kindle tomorrow morning, finally contains "Shadow Show" (which I cannot help thinking of as "my" Simak story, because I have spent so much time with it over the years - which doesn't mean I think it is necessarily better than many others). Thank you for taking on the monumental task of bringing all these stories back into print.
Thank you for your kind words to and about me. And thank you, too, for your interesting comment on "Shadow Show." (I'm sorry, but something -- or ten somethings -- had to wait for the last volume...)
And I'll add that your personal reaction to that story may illustrate yet another aspect of Cliff's writings -- because it seems to me that there is always someone, somewhere, who thinks of a particular Simak story as his or her own personal story... For me, it turned out to be "I Am Crying All Inside." That is what led me, when creating this series of collections, to use that story as the lead-off for the whole series. But I'm not sure I know just why that is...something about that story always speaks to me of the Cliff that I knew, and that I miss.
Few of you can say that, I know -- but I'm convinced that every one of you has in his mind an image of what Cliff must have been like, and there's a story that always opens that image to you.
You are lucky to have found his work.
 

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