A Rediscovery of Clifford D. Simak - A Reading Challenge

Ralf 58

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Egads! I've read each and every novel posted by Ralf, and most of the collections. Not all of the titles spark much recognition. I read most of them decades ago.

...

I see no mention of The Fisherman in Ralf's Bibliography.

I've discovered an oddity. And I want to know how it ends, Dammit.

Which is my query to Ralf. Was this story ever reprinted? Was the title changed?
Hi Alex,

the novel that you have started reading, was first published as "The Fisherman" in four parts in "Analog" in 1961. The first book edition appeared yet in 1961 under the title "Time is the Simplest Thing".

Here you can find all the English editions: Releases of "Time is the Simplest Thing" in English in the Simak Bibliography

Currently, there is even an available edition. The novel is included in the "Clifford Simak SF Gateway Omnibus", which appeared in 2013:


See the Amazon offer.
 

Ralf 58

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In my column "pulp magazines" I still miss a story. "A Pipeline To Destiny" was published in 1963 in the fanzine HKLPLOD # 4 and was never reprinted again.
Only in the year 2012 appeared a Russian translation, in a fan publication with only 20 copies! I am amazed how the Russians got the text. I myself have it not unfortunately.


Scott Henderson noted on his website "The Science Fiction Short Stories of Clifford D. Simak" that the story was written probably 20 years earlier, in the forties. Phil Stephensen-Payne wanted to take the story in the fifth volume of the series "The Collected Stories of Clifford D. Simak", but unfortunately the project was canceled.
 

Extollager

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Bick's comment here

Browsing Around in Pre-1975 Anthologies Other Than Conklin's

reminded me of my copy of Conklin's Operation Future anthology, and of the fact that I hadn't yet read Simak's "Worrywart," contained therein. At first it reminded me of Lovecraft's "Call of Cthulhu," except that the phenomena that the protagonist correlates aren't bad things but good ones. (I noted recently how another Simak story, "The Big Front Yard," was a bit like a more cheerful variation on Lovecraft.) By the end of "Worrywart" -- which ends on a note of dread -- I was reminded of Le Guin's The Lathe of Heaven. Another success for Simak. It's great to be seeking out and reading Simak stories and novels, not just encountering one or other of them from time to time and reading with satisfaction.
 

LoZioOscuro

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LoZioOscuro - your dog must be called "Nathaniel"? :)

Not just a "dog", but the first "Dog".
Now, Bick, you are an EXPERT!!! Absolutely correct, my dog's name is Nathaniel, even though we call him Nat. Congratulations.

PS: In realty, Nat has another linkage to SF; there is an Italian SF comics magazine which title is Nathan Never.
 

Ralf 58

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... Since 1951 (when Empire was written) ...
Perhaps it is interesting to know for yourself that "Empire" was not written in 1951, but much earlier. It is a novel that is actually by John W. Campbell. Clifford Simak has rewritten this novel.
Muriel Becker has in her book "Clifford D. Simak - a primary and secondary bibliography" conducted an interview with Cliff and there he says:

As for Empire being written in the thirties, here's the story: John W. Campbell wrote Empire when he was something like eighteen years old. He never was able to find a publisher for it. When he became editor of Astounding, John published my Cosmic Engineers and was much taken with it. He called it a power story with sensitivity, which he said a power story had never had before. He also said that he had a story, and would I rewrite this story? He sent me his story, and I gagged when I read it, but I sat down and rewrote Empire. I sent it off to John. I suppose it was somewhat better then what he had written at the age of eighteen, but it was still pretty bad. And John, no doubt after much cogitation and a great deal of soulsearching and some bad nights, turned it down ... for which I don't blame him. At any rate, I tossed it up on the shelf and forgot about it.
...
Then several years later, Horace Gold started what he called Galaxy Science Fiction Novels. Number One had a beautiful story by Eric Frank Russel called Sinister Barrier. Several others followed. Among them were Legion of Space by Jack Williamson and Prelude to Space by Arthur C. Clarke. Then one day I got an agonizing call from Gold. "I need a story," he said. "John tells me you wrote a story that's never been published. Could I see it?"
I phoned John an talked to him. I said, "I don't want to give this story to Gold without offering you the opportunity to take half the responsibility for it."
John replied, "No way, No Way, NO WAY AT ALL."
I countered, "Let me pay you at least half of what I get for it."
He wouldn't accept that. Meanwhile, Gold was pleading for it. So I sold it to Gold, and I have copies of it at home. I have never read it in published form. I'm never going to. It is probably the poorest science fiction story ever written by two men who wrote some pretty good science fiction.

(Becker, p. xxxiii-xxxiv)

We can conclude that the novel "Empire" was originally written about 1928 by John W. Campbell, that it was rewritten about 1939/1940 by Clifford Simak and it was then published in 1951. Clifford Simak himself found the novel quite poor. (Me too ;) )

Today is "Empire" public domain. You can download it at Project Gutenberg and if you enter "Clifford Simak" on Amazon, "Empire" is always one of the first hits. I think that's a shame, because people who do not know Clifford Simak, may think he has only written such garbage.
 
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Vince W

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I just finished reading Empire and found it quite enjoyable for what it was. Even Goodreads gives it a little over three stars. I've since picked up Shakespeare's Planet.
 

LoZioOscuro

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I read "Way Station" and really enjoyed it only to follow with "City" that I really didn't enjoy and that's put me off reading anything else by him. At least I've been made a lot more wary...
Fried Egg, I'd suggest to you to re-read City. Even though of courses tastes don't are to be questioned, it's almost unanimously considered one of the best SF novels ever written, if not THE best, so it's strange that it didn't hit you.
I experienced that Simak's works, unlike most other writers', usually behave like good wine - they better with time (or - by readings).


Looks like I'm playing. (Bick, you're messing up my reading order. ;)) The nearest used bookstore has had Project Pope for awhile and I kept seeing it and thinking about recovering it but not getting it. This rediscovery idea encouraged me to go ahead and get it to refresh my memory. And I had picked up Time and Again awhile ago more because it was a very old Ace paperback in very good condition for very little money more than any other reason and it was low in the Pile, but I may go ahead and read that sooner than I expected, too. Can't say I'll do any other re-reading (or not) but I'll do this much. (I was still not finished with my issue of Analog when I opened up Project Pope just to see how the first couple of pages went. While the Prologue didn't grab me immediately, I kept going on to Chapter One and ended up on page 21 before I made myself go back to the magazine. Good sign so far.)
Sun, Project Pope is, in my opinion, not among the very best Simak works, but just a small step below. Even if its final seems to me bizzarre and hardly credible, even in the warped logic of a SF novel, the novel is pleasant to read and characters, as usual, very well depicted.
Almost the same I'd say about Time and Again; not a masterpiece, but an excellent novel.

Destiny Doll
was my first Simak, thirty five years ago. Mind blowing weird for the bestiary, alone. Along with Cordwainer Smith, among the weirdest stuff I've ever loved.

In my opinion, Destiny Doll is one of best Simak's novels. I've read and re-read it a number of times (well - I did the same for almost Simak works), and every time I like it as the first time.
There is a sense of somber disaster hoovering over the entire plot, that weighs over me a bit; but the many concepts it develops, and the way the characters are depicted, is wonderful.
And I do like Cpt. Ross - he has been charged with being macho-style like Rambo, but my sympathy goes to him.


***
My favorite scene in Fellowship of the Talisman is the blatant homage to HPL in that certain scene in an overgrown tomb in a deep dark forest.

Even though it's Fantasy, I do like The Fellowship... a lot. I remember waiting for its release with great anticipation. And I own an autographed copy of it, that I keep as one of my most valuable treasures.
I find remarkable how Simak could write excellent Fantasy (The Fellowship..., Enchanted Pilgrimage, Where the Evil Dwells (almost identical with The Fellowship under many expects, though) and, under some points of view, Out Of Their Mind, being a top class SF writer. I don't think that many other writers own this capability.


***

No mention yet of The Big Front Yard. One of my favorites.

The Big Front Yard is without any doubt Simak at his very best. Beside the usual smooth, yet superb style, it comprehends all the main Simak's themes: the love for animals and second-class humans, the sudden breaking through of the universe into the sleepy life of Midwest country, the good aliens and the amicable way a relation between men and aliens can be achieved, the cool Yankee trader...
It's a must, if you like Simak.


Roberto
 

LoZioOscuro

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Does anyone know -- is it pronounced "SYE=mak" or "SEE-mak" -- or "Simmak"?
Extollager, I don't know which the right pronounce is; in Italy we pronounce Seemak.
Simak has got many fans in Italy, even though almost all are my age (61) or older, as new generations mostly care for Star Trek, Star Wars, Avatar, etc. etc. - " stuff " like that, so the " Grand Masters " - not only Simak - are almost completely forgotten.
Almost all his works had been translated into Italian, even though since a few years I started reading some of his works in English, for they hadn't been translated, and also as I was curious to know how they would be in original language.
Roberto
 

LoZioOscuro

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Book 2: City - Novel, 1952 (fix-up from stories written 1944-1951)

... and then perhaps the short tale "Desertion" as being the best of the bunch.

unquote

IMHO City is wonderful novel (collection of short stories?), and Desertion is the best chapter (short story?) in it.
The way Jupiter is described is amazing, but what touched me the most is the love between mand an dog - a classic Simak's theme.
It's to note that the basic concept - humans being transformed into local creatures to withstand the terrible conditions on Jupiter - stands as the basis of Paul Anderson's novelette " Call Me Joe ", that, however, was written in 1957; so, there's no doubt about who copied, if someone did...
Roberto
 

Ralf 58

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A few remarks on the pronunciation of "Simak"

It is originally a Czech name (Simak grandfather was born in Bohemia and emigrated to the United States). In Czech, they writes actually "Šimák" and they speak it SHEE-MAAK (front as "she", behind a long "a" as in "arm").
In Germany the most people say "Zee-mak" (soft "Z" and long "i" as in "zeal", behind a short "a"), because you would read it in German so, or "SEI-mak" ("Sei" as in "seismic", behind a short "a"), because they think that the Americans would say so.

As you've already figured out, Clifford Simak himself has spoken his name as "SIM-MAK" (front short "i" as in "simulation", rear short "a"). You can hear the right pronunciation also here:
X Minus One - Junkyard (Episode 40)
and here:
Aliens in the Heartland: Clifford D. Simak and the Emergence of Pastoral Science Fiction

Most Americans probably do not know the correct pronunciation. Isaac Asimov also did not know. In his anthology "The Great Science Fiction Stories Volume 6, 1944," he writes in the introduction to the story "Desertion" that he has always said "SEI-mak" and that he learned only later that it "SIM-ak" means.
I have the quote from Asimov not in the original, but maybe someone of you has the book. I have here only the German translation and try to translate it back.:
"Since my connection was with him almost exclusively in correspondence ... I never had the opportunity to hear how his last name is pronounced. ... As a result, I assumed for some reason, the 'i' in his surname is long, and I always thought of him as SEI-mak. Indeed, the 'i' but short, and he is called SIM-ak. " [p. 292].

It's curious that on the back-translation of the name in Slavic languages they used the wrong pronunciation: In Russian they write "Саймак" (Sai-mak), in Bulgarian they write "Саймък" (Sai-mek).
 

Bick

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Book 4: Time is the Simplest Thing - Novel, 1961

To cut to the chase, I enjoyed this novel very much. I'll need to read a lot more Simak to know if it's one of his best, but from my reading so far I would suggest it may well be. In style, it is quite distinct from the two later novels I've read from the 1970's - those are lighter, stylistically. By contrast, Time is the Simplest Thing is a denser book, with much more descriptive prose. The writing is still smooth and clear but it does read as a longer more substantial book, though it is still relatively short by page count. One gets the impression that Simak was trying to write 'great SF' at this stage of career.

The title is perhaps a little disinenguous, as there is little time travel involved. Time travel does feature, but this is really a book about the evolution of the human race to a psychic stage of development. Simak is clearly interested in what he calls in this book psychokinetic or PK abilities. It was mentioned I think earlier in this thread that Campbell was nuts for 'psionics' and he encouraged many contributors to Astounding to write stories about psychic protagonists and the evolution of psychic powers. This is a good example of that influence, another famous example probably being the Mule in Asimov's Foundation stories. It's interesting to note that the only SF concept in this book is psychic power, because, in a sense, that's not very scientific! However, we have to remember that in the 1950's and 1960's there was a lot of interest in psychic phenomena and it was normal to write such stories in SF. This interest famously extended to other art forms around that time, of course, such as Miles Davis' 1965 LP recording, ESP.

Simak described how he approached novel writing in various interviews, suggesting that he planned the first half very tightly, then let the second half more or less evolve as it would. I think this can lead to books that start very strongly and go slightly off track toward the end. Cemetery World is one I'd put in this category. However, although the first half is slightly tighter in this novel than the second half, it concludes very satisfyingly indeed. Simak wraps his story up well, and the overall sense when I put the book down at the end, was "What a cracker!". Again, as I found with Shakespeare's Planet, I had my doubts as to how satisfyingly the book could possibly be concluded when I got to within 20 pages off the end. I need to start having a bit more faith in our Clifford though, as he managed just fine.

Next up, I am excited to start in on what may be Simak's finest novel (judging from various comments on this thread and others): Way Station, from 1963.
 

J-Sun

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Most Americans probably do not know the correct pronunciation. Isaac Asimov also did not know. In his anthology "The Great Science Fiction Stories Volume 6, 1944," he writes in the introduction to the story "Desertion" that he has always said "SEI-mak" and that he learned only later that it "SIM-ak" means.
I have the quote from Asimov not in the original, but maybe someone of you has the book. I have here only the German translation and try to translate it back.:
"Since my connection was with him almost exclusively in correspondence ... I never had the opportunity to hear how his last name is pronounced. ... As a result, I assumed for some reason, the 'i' in his surname is long, and I always thought of him as SEI-mak. Indeed, the 'i' but short, and he is called SIM-ak. "
Yep - I'm American and was one of the SIGH-mak folks and, when the question arose in this thread, had the bad luck to come across an audio file that used my same mispronunciation so thought I'd gotten it right for once. Here's the original English from GSFS6:

Since my association with him has been almost entirely by way of correspondence... I never had occasion to use or hear his last name expressed in sound... The result is that, for some reason, I assumed the "i" in his last name was long and thought of him always as SIGH-mak. Actually, the "i" is short and it is SIM-ak.
He goes on to say

It may seem a small thing but I am always irritated when anyone mispronounces my name and I should be equally careful of others' names. Fortunately, Cliff is so sweet-tempered a fellow, I can't conceive of him being annoyed at me for for so venial a crim--I mean, crime.
:)
 

Ralf 58

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Yep - I'm American and was one of the SIGH-mak folks and, when the question arose in this thread, had the bad luck to come across an audio file that used my same mispronunciation so thought I'd gotten it right for once. Here's the original English from GSFS6: ....

:)
Thx J-Sun, for the original text of Asimov's comment.
 

J-Sun

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You're welcome - and thanks for pointing me to where Asimov said it - I was thinking he must have but couldn't find it. :)

Oh, and I echo what Bick said - fascinating info on Empire.
 

Ralf 58

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Book 4: Time is the Simplest Thing - Novel, 1961

To cut to the chase, I enjoyed this novel very much. I'll need to read a lot more Simak to know if it's one of his best, but from my reading so far I would suggest it may well be. In style, it is quite distinct from the two later novels I've read from the 1970's - those are lighter, stylistically. By contrast, Time is the Simplest Thing is a denser book, with much more descriptive prose. The writing is still smooth and clear but it does read as a longer more substantial book, though it is still relatively short by page count. One gets the impression that Simak was trying to write 'great SF' at this stage of career.

The title is perhaps a little disinenguous, as there is little time travel involved. Time travel does feature, but this is really a book about the evolution of the human race to a psychic stage of development. Simak is clearly interested in what he calls in this book psychokinetic or PK abilities. It was mentioned I think earlier in this thread that Campbell was nuts for 'psionics' and he encouraged many contributors to Astounding to write stories about psychic protagonists and the evolution of psychic powers. This is a good example of that influence, another famous example probably being the Mule in Asimov's Foundation stories. It's interesting to note that the only SF concept in this book is psychic power, because, in a sense, that's not very scientific! However, we have to remember that in the 1950's and 1960's there was a lot of interest in psychic phenomena and it was normal to write such stories in SF. This interest famously extended to other art forms around that time, of course, such as Miles Davis' 1965 LP recording, ESP.

Simak described how he approached novel writing in various interviews, suggesting that he planned the first half very tightly, then let the second half more or less evolve as it would. I think this can lead to books that start very strongly and go slightly off track toward the end. Cemetery World is one I'd put in this category. However, although the first half is slightly tighter in this novel than the second half, it concludes very satisfyingly indeed. Simak wraps his story up well, and the overall sense when I put the book down at the end, was "What a cracker!". Again, as I found with Shakespeare's Planet, I had my doubts as to how satisfyingly the book could possibly be concluded when I got to within 20 pages off the end. I need to start having a bit more faith in our Clifford though, as he managed just fine.

Next up, I am excited to start in on what may be Simak's finest novel (judging from various comments on this thread and others): Way Station, from 1963.
Thank you for your review of "Time is the Simplest Thing". In my personal ranking list this novel is in the top ten. I'm curious how you will evaluate my favorites: "Way Station", "All Flesh is Grass", "They Walked Like Men" and "Ring Around the Sun". Also, "The Werewolf Principle", "Our Children's Children", "Why Call Them Back from Heaven", "The Visitors" ... there are many good novels, you must read.
 

Alex The G and T

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I finished the re-read of The Big Front Yard, this afternoon.

Still a highly engaging story. The impeccable craftsmanship of weaving the various story arcs into a fluid whole are strikingly smooth.

The sense of plausibility, to the reader, shared by the inflappable protagonist, as extremely bizarre events unfold, are a delight.

I didn't remember many details of the story, before the re-read; but I remembered the shocking weirdnesses as they were revealed.

Thus the true joy of screaming WTF moments at the surprises; which I enjoyed upon a first reading as a youth, were a bit paled in my jaded old blasé attitude.

Nonetheless, this is still one of the funnest stories ever written.
 

hitmouse

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I really like Time is the Simplest Thing. Just interesting and quite charming in so many way. It also tackles predjudice in a way that is quite interestnig for a book written in 1961.
 
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