Tuesday, May 12, 2015


I'm not sure what the first story I read by Clifford Simak was, but the first I remember is "Desertion." It's part of the book he's probably most famous for, City. The novel is a mournful farewell to humanity and Earth and stars robot butlers and talking dogs.

"Desertion" is about a scientist and his dog on Jupiter investigating missing explorers. They were transmogrified into lopers, a lifeform native to the planet's surface. None so far have returned to the station.

There's a tremendous sense of wonder in the tale as the nature of what's going on is revealed. I think of it as the story that showed me the true potential of sci-fi as something way more than rockets and rayguns (not that there's a single thing wrong with them).

Sadly, Clifford Simak seems to have slipped into the ranks of the unjustly forgotten sci-fi writers of the past. Growing up, he was just part of the general fabric of sci-fi and most fellow sci-fi fans I knew had read at least something by him.

Doing a search on Waystation the other day, I discovered a 2009 review in the UK Guardian. The author admitted he had never even heard of Simak until he started exploring past Hugo winners. Only twenty-three years after his death, a man who was the third Science Fiction Grand Master (after only Robert Heinlein and Jack Williamson), winner of three Hugos and a Nebula, was unknown by the science fiction reviewer of a major paper.

I can't blame the critic. As of 2009, most of his books were no longer in print. Happily, that seems to be changing a little, though, at least in the UK. Gollancz has published City and Waystation, and Gateway/Orion is releasing e-books of what looks to be all of his novels.

It's been a long time since I've read anything by Simak. John O'Neill's post about The Goblin Reservation and the comments reminded me how much I loved his work. There's a warmth and comfortableness to his stories that I love.

Here are the novels of his I have in storage. I just dug out Enchanted Pilgrimage, his first effort at writing a fantasy quest novel. He came back to it two more times in The Fellowship of the Talisman and Where the Evil Dwells.

All three send a party of adventures into enchanted lands to make some discovery or thwart some rising evil. I don't remember them being particularly original but nice reads nonetheless.


  1. First Sarah Hoyt starts rereading Simak while recovering from surgery and blogging about it, then John starts posting about Simak at Black Gate (or was it the other way around?). Now you start blogging about him.

    I think I can take a cosmic hint. I need to go back to reading Simak. When I was a kid, his books were well represented in both used and new bookstores, and he was actively writing. New novels appeared every year or two. He was (and is) one of my favorite writers.

    I was really disappointed when Darkside Press folded. They were planning on collecting all of Simak's short fiction in 10 volumes. There were still 8 more to go.

  2. Hilarious! I'll go check out Hoyt's posts.

    Yeah, I remember when he was still writing. By the time he died and his last book came out in '86 I was completely smitten. I want to see if that love still holds. So far, Enchanted Pilgrimage is proving it does.

    I only had the collection Skirmish and I can't find it at present. I've never read the early, pulpy stuff John mentioned so now I really want to.

    I think I need to reread City very soon.

  3. City was one of the titles Hoyt was rereading. I loved it when I read and need to revisit it. That and Way Station. I don't think I've read Enchanted Pilgrimage. I did enjoy Where the Evil Dwells when it came out.

    Simak published some short fiction in the Stellar anthology series that Ballantine put out in the mid 70s. It was good stuff.

    There was also this collection from the 90s :http://www.abebooks.com/servlet/SearchResults?an=Simak&bi=0&bx=off&ds=30&pn=Tachyon&recentlyadded=all&sortby=17&sts=t&x=0&y=0

  4. Cliff Simak interview from 1975, plus for the first time the actual audio of the interview copied to disc.


  5. Now you have me interested as well! That's what I need -- to get hooked on another author who's only available in out of print books… I've heard of him, but never read him.

  6. Yeah, but they're all under 250 pages. ;-) City is definitely worth the time.