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Clifford Simak 
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NitroForum Oldster

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Post Clifford Simak
Just finished a re-reading of Clifford Simak's novel "Way Station"- a thoroughly entertaining and well written book- the thought has many times crossed my mind why he never quite won the same acclaim as authors such as RAH, Asimov, Bradbury etc - he weaves an excellent story- his characterizations remind me considerably of RAH- did he miss out on becoming iconic by being a bit less prolific in his writng or .....? he just seems to fall into that "second tier" of scifi writers who we appreciate but who's names never fall from our tongues when we discuss authors who have impacted us

anyone ?


Tue Apr 19, 2011 7:51 am
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Location: Studio City CA
Post Re: Clifford Simak
NickDoten wrote:
Just finished a re-reading of Clifford Simak's novel "Way Station"- a thoroughly entertaining and well written book- the thought has many times crossed my mind why he never quite won the same acclaim as authors such as RAH, Asimov, Bradbury etc - he weaves an excellent story- his characterizations remind me considerably of RAH- did he miss out on becoming iconic by being a bit less prolific in his writng or .....? he just seems to fall into that "second tier" of scifi writers who we appreciate but who's names never fall from our tongues when we discuss authors who have impacted us.


I owned the movie rights to WAY STATION for a number of years in the mid-1990s, so clearly I have some enthusiasm for that book, and for Simak's work in general. Nevertheless, there are several reasons why he never broke into that "first tier" of SF writers of his generation.

First, he never really broke out of the pulps, as Heinlein, Clarke and especially Bradbury did. (And Asimov had a huge presence as a non-fiction writer.)

Second, he lacked a best-seller or signature work. WAY STATION and "Big Front Yard" won Hugos; CITY won the International Fantasy Award. But there were no breakouts, nothing to compete with Heinlein's Scribner juveniles or NAL paperbacks, or with FOUNDATION or MARTIAN CHRONCLES.

Third, he wasn't all that prolific . . . certainly not consistently productive in the 1940s and 1950s. (He published TIME AND AGAIN in GALAXY, one of the first serials that magazine published... but I can only recall one other original until about 1960.)

Fourth, he was quite limited in his choice of setting and subject matter, especially in his later novels (published by Putnam, then Del Rey). It was all small town Wisconsin, robots, empty Earth, the occasion mix of SF and fantasy figures (WEREWOLF PRINCIPLE and later works). Or so it seemed.

Fifth, while he had an engaging narrative voice and smooth prose style, his actual story-telling was often leisurely -- compare his work to, say, PUPPET MASTERS -- or downright lazy (those 1970s-80s novels), where he would write up to an important scene, then skip it and write the aftermath.

But he did write a handful of terrific stories, the CITY series will last as long as SF does, he created one very good novel in WAY STATION, and another one (ALL FLESH IS GRASS) that I frequently re-read.

Michael Cassutt


Wed Apr 27, 2011 5:10 pm
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Post Re: Clifford Simak
I rather liked his Del Rey novel Special Deliverance (1982, I think) and have even reread it with pleasure, but have never been able to get into any other of his novels.

Are there other SF writers at or above his level of accomplishment who were primarily newspaper journalists for much of their lives? Or journalists of any kind?


Wed Apr 27, 2011 7:23 pm
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NitroForum Oldster

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Post Re: Clifford Simak
Thanks for the interesting info Michael ! still wondering how simak missed with "way station" as his break through book ! but it won a hugo ... hmmm.......


Wed Apr 27, 2011 8:24 pm
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Post Re: Clifford Simak
NickDoten wrote:
Thanks for the interesting info Michael ! still wondering how simak missed with "way station" as his break through book ! but it won a hugo ... hmmm.......


A Hugo didn't necessarily equate with "breakthrough". DUNE, STRANGER, A CANTICLE FOR LEIBOWITZ, LEFT HAND OF DARKNESS, sure. But what about THE WANDERER or THE MAN IN THE HIGH CASTLE or THIS IMMORTAL? CASTLE is remembered now, thanks to Dick's post-mortem prominence, but it was largely unavailable throughout the Sixties.

WAY STATION's commercial or break-out potential was likely stunted by being a Doubleday hardcover with an awful, third-rate paperback edition -- from McFadden, I believe.

Which isn't to say that the book had the elements of a break-out -- I don't think it really did -- but even if so, it wasn't going to happen with those publishers in that market.

MC


Fri Apr 29, 2011 7:50 am
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Heinlein Biographer

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Post Re: Clifford Simak
MichaelCassutt wrote:
<snip>But he did write a handful of terrific stories, the CITY series will last as long as SF does, he created one very good novel in WAY STATION, and another one (ALL FLESH IS GRASS) that I frequently re-read.

Indeed. There are a couple I read over and over that weren't on your list (You also mentioned "The Big Front Yard")-- The Goblin Reservation and They Walked Like Men. And for a short story, "How-2"

I think Why Call them Back from Heaven compares favorably to MacDonald's Wine of the Dreamers Urk. Ring Around the Sun is pretty good too. I'd better stop or I'll be trotting out his whole pre-1970 list.


Fri Apr 29, 2011 5:26 pm
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NitroForum Oldster

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Post Re: Clifford Simak
as i mentioned previously, from what i've personally read of simak, i couldn't understand how he failed to break into that top echelon of sci-fi writers- many folks here have mentioned several of his works are among their favorites........... a contemplative "hmmmmmm.........."

michael cassutt broached that his publishers didn't truly advance his career, other's have proferred simak was more a pulp writer than a novelist- i found my curiosity regarding simak's relative lack of success wasn't slaked so i jumped over to jim's favorite reference site (yes-wiki) hoping to gain further insight- from wiki's bio i attempted to place his life in context to the world around him- i found several items there which may have contributed to his forementioned lack of iconic stature.

simak was born in 1904, he was married early in 1929- just prior to the stock market crash ! certainly an impediment for any career hopes- surely others broke through as writers during this time - RAH in particular- while simak did publish some shorter works during this time, his output was scant with large time lapses between works- possibly because he was scraping for a living while trying to support a family of 4- however beginning in 1938 he had become a regular contributor to astounding stories

in 1939 he began an association with the minneapolis tribune newspaper-at the age of 34, america went to war- another time in life when the opportunity to blossom as a novelist may have been derailed- 1949 saw simak hired as the news editor of the mpls tribune- the early 50's saw simak's first novels being published- he was pushing 50 and already into a successful newspaper career- his output was limited

while working a demanding full time job as newspaper editor, he still managed to write "city" and a few other novels- it was only as he approached his 60's that we see an uptick in his output !!! kind of a late start when you consider the other icons of sci-fi genre were regularly being published decades before- the bulk of simak's novels were produced during roughly a 20 year period (early 60's through early 80's) - however, during this span, his output was considerable- roughly a book a year of high quality (imho) writing

combine simak's life circumstances, feeding a family during the depression, then the war, the newspaper job and his late entry into mainstream publishing (and as mentioned, perhaps crappy publishers), his apparent lack of iconic recognition is understandable- when you consider simak said his favorite form of recreation was "lazy fishing" where you lay in a boat and let the fish come to you", his output of quality novels was, in my eyes, prodigious


Mon May 02, 2011 8:14 pm
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Heinlein Nexus

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Post Re: Clifford Simak
He's a quiet, pastoral writer. Those values don't fly with many today.


Tue May 03, 2011 12:23 pm
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