A Way Station Into Science Fiction

Before I go into the post proper, I want to speak about Shadowdancer.  Since bad news spreads like wild fire, I think most of you know she lost her beloved 11 week old son to SIDs last week.  Since all her online family had been living her joy and motherhood through pictures of him (sometimes daily) and progress reports, it very much feels like I lost a grandchild or a favorite nephew.

Even so we had to contend with her to LET us help with something, anything.  As many of you know this is the second son that Shadow as lost.  Her son Damien was stillborn (heart stopped during labor) sometime last year.

Her young family could use some help defraying funeral expenses, and also, unfortunately, because of the distance to her, the only way we can send her hugs is monetary.  I shall send my contribution later today.  And if any of you wants to help Shadow through this, here’s the link: https://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=_s-xclick&hosted_button_id=9MCPUTTUCBTUW

Now, today’s post.

As you guys know when I’m on painkillers I sleep like the dead, only better.  I think I’m paying back years, maybe decades of sleep debt.

I woke up int he morning, warm and snuggled next to my husband and decided this would not be a post about the Hugos.  This is good, because the piece my husband read me over the breakfast table would… well…  We’ll save that for later.  We’ll save Arthur Chu for later, too.  As several people have assured me, he’s not even edible, and he’s OF COURSE misrepresenting my words and actions.  Eh.  It’s what he does.  Cr*p weasels got to cr*p weasel.

I decided this would be about Simak in general and Way Station in particular.  Some reference to the establishment in sf/f is needed, but it’s not about the Hugos in particular.

You see, I started reading SF with Have Spacesuit Will Travel but I had clue zero it was science fiction.  In my hopper of a mind, all times and places crossed.  I was eight.  (Later a teacher had to correct me, that atomic war hadn’t in fact happened.)

However the first science fiction/fantasy book I read knowing it was sf/f was Out of Their Minds.  And part of the reason I read it (the other part was because my brother, who was 10 years older, in engineering, and borrowing these from a friend, had been warned some had unsavory explicit sex, and so had forbidden me from reading it.) was because standing next to my brother’s bedside, ready to throw the book in the drawer and be in my room looking perfectly innocent at the first step on the stairs, I came across Snuffy (sp?) Smith, a cartoon I followed in our newspapers.

After that came A Canticle for Leibowitz and after that a string of seventies crap-sf.

One of the things that made me roll on the floor laughing yesterday (laughing while growling understand) was a claim from the anti-puppy side that what those concerned with puppy sadness wanted was a return to the “pulps of the seventies.”

Since this claim was made by a man who looks older than I, my mouth dropped open in wonder and astonishment at the ignorance.  Does he have Alzheimers?  Has he totally forgotten the history of the genre?  Or is he one of the homunculus with no trace of real humanity who recreates past reality in his mind according to the dictates of the party line and the push of politics?

Seventies.  Pulps.  With space guns and rockets and manly men having adventures.  In the seventies.

Heinlein wept, people.  Or he would if he heard that nonsense.

Beyond the fact that no one on our side called or would call for retro-sf (though in a way that’s exactly what I’m doing with Darkships — doing very well thank you very much — but it’s modern SF with a retro nod) if we were calling for “SF like in the seventies” we would be calling for a lot of communist-apologia, a lot of hopeless dystopia, a lot of pointless, plot-useless sex and a lot of the explorations that led to the present day class/genre/race precious jewels of social justice.

Yeah, no, we’re not calling for that.

But what is revealed in this idiot’s accusations is how little the other side knows of the history of the genre.  What they know is from the outside, and not even from a scholarly study of our genre from the outside, but from the outside VIA THE MOVIES.

It is known in our family that if a tv series is about something we know or do — math, or writing, for ex — the person who knows the most about it can’t watch it.  You should see Dan when the Numbers thing came up.  No, really.  He’s the nicer half in this marriage, but he was foaming at the mouth.  Though for once it was nice to be the one to say “no, you can’t throw your shoe through the monitor.  You’d regret it. No, you can’t throw your notebook either.  And you can’t even lift your son.”

In the same way, sff came through in movies and series as what it had never been, the myth of the forties and fifties SF/F about scantily clad women and monsters.  (To be fair, the covers were like that.  And if you didn’t read it…)

And this is the sf/f these people talk about, only in their minds it was all monsters, scantily clad women and daring do THROUGH THE SEVENTIES and maybe even through the 2000s.  Up till then, to hear some of these people talk, SF only allowed women in as “prizes” and women were kept in burkas at conventions, or could only attend as drag kings.  It boggles the mind.

You see, as a reader I came into SF in the seventies (fantasy only in the nineties because it doesn’t work well with my mind and I had to work myself into it by stages.)

Here some explanation of the Portuguese method of printing stuff is needed.  Or what was the method of publishing stuff at that time. Now I understand they import a lot from Brazil, so it’s different.

At the time there was one science fiction imprint, and that science fiction imprint (Argonauta!) came out twice a month.  When my brother and I started buying the books, we were often so broke that we had to go halvsies on the cost.  Man, was he happy when I married abroad and left him the collection.  The only semblance of fandom, which I joined in the late seventies, at least in my area, were the lost souls lining up four hours before the store opened to make sure you got one of the copies of whatever was coming out.  Because if it sold out, you couldn’t get it again.  The business ran so close to the bone that there were no reprints, and I never found a used bookstore carrying SF.

Now some printruns didn’t sell out, so once we’d exhausted the library amassed by my brother’s friend, and his father, we bought mostly those “less successful” authors.

Some of these I actually found worthy and interesting.  I can’t remember when I discovered him, but Phil Dick was one of those that languished on the racks till I bought it.

Most of those books I don’t even remember.  I do remember throwing one against the wall when the “typical colonization novel” was turned on its head and the fearless leader died in a horrible manner, then one by one, till the only survivor — the self-rocking, cringing hysteric — kills himself.

I remember another one, in which the US is a backwater behind some sort of Star Wars defense and the future comes from (snort, giggle) the USSR and this woman, being a corrupt capitalist goes out and has a lot of sex with men and women.  I was 14 and I read it, but I thought it was stupid and pointless (even if I didn’t spot the crazy geo-political message) so I don’t remember the name of the author or the title.

It is a merciful part of my makeup (lipstick, I think) that I forget the names of authors and books I hated.  (Of course this used to mean I sometimes bought the same book three times.  Or more. There was this one gorgeous cover in mystery for a book called The Wandering Arm.  From the blurb it sounded right up my alley.  I bought it TEN TIMES.  I never got past the first two chapters, and I don’t think it even offended me, just bored me to death.  Thank heavens I now buy mostly from Amazon which tells me “oh, you’ve bought this.”)

The ONLY book I ever found that fit the “he man space man” and exploited hot babes wasn’t a book.  It was a French magazine called Panspermia.  It turns out — pats 14 year old self on the back — it wasn’t as idiot me thought about the theories of Fred Hoyle and a universe populated by genetic kin.  No.  It was SF-erotica.  (Pinches nose, inclines head, closes eyes.)  Let’s just say when I got to the page with the… ah… illustration, I gave it to my brother.  Who might still have it, for all I know.

Anyway, like all human beings, I immediately developed favorites.  My high trinity, the books I HAD TO have were Heinlein, Asimov and … Clifford Simak.  Once when talking to Jerry Pournelle I mentioned that my tastes were fairly average for Portuguese and we both felt a little sad that Simak never visited Portugal where he would have been greeted as a living legend and feted and appreciated as he never was in the US.

After that came a host of others, more minor but still loved: Anderson, A. E. Van Vogt and a lot more I’d recognize if I saw the names, and even Anne McCaffrey who never appealed to my brother, but whom I was reading when I got married and changed languages.  (Moreta was read in English.)

And like everyone else, my tastes changed, in my case more so due to changing languages and acculturation.

By the time I got married, Heinlein had replaced Simak as my favorite author.  And I’ll confess, partly because Simak’s work is so hard to find (it was in Portugal too, most of it having been published before I discovered, sf/f.  Fortunately one of my friends’ dads was “clearing out” his closet and found a box of sf from his dad, which he gave me.  It contained among other things City and Way Station.  (I’d already read They Walked Like Men and The Werewolf Principle.)

I think I know, now, why I shifted tastes.  But at any rate, because I’m sick and recovering, and because the surgery means a move to another stage of life (you do the math, bucko) and possibly because my hormones are adjusting and I feel a little fragile, I’ve been re-capturing my reading journey, starting with Disney comics, moving on to mystery and then to my beginnings in SF/F.

Partly the mystery and SF/f are in audible because I’m supposed to engage in walking and other gentle exercise and my main issue with exercise is that I get bored.  So, audio books.  Fortunately Audible just brought out three Simaks.  I’ve listened to Werewolf Principle, I’m two thirds through Way Station and I’m going to listen to City next.

As I’ve been doing that, it hit me how much of an impact Simak had on me.  A lot of my themes and fixations seem to come straight from him: the ethics of modifying humans for instance, and what is a human.

There is also an understanding of what a novel was at the time.  Way Station was published in 69, when I was seven, and I would estimate it at around 70k words (?) maybe a little more or less.  It is the right length, I think.  Put any more into it, and you destroy the magic, because you can’t do the dance of the seven veils fast enough to stop the questioning mind.  (More on that later.)

OTOH Werewolf principle felt too short and like some of the more interesting psychological conflict was elided.  I don’t think in that case it would have broken the enchantment to have more.  It might have deepened it. But at the time novels were kept short.  Printing costs.  Fitting in a spinning wrack.  All that.  Art is not the materials, but the material world informs the art.

As is, Werewolf Principle was a major (conscious) influence on Darkship Thieves.

Not that Clifford Simak wrote Space Opera.  His world is one of the Earth, though an Earth sometimes modified by what came from space.  His formula, now that I’m a writer, seems to be the natural world disrupted (and enhanced) by something alien.

Neither Werewolf Principle nor Way Station are about buff men and helpless females.  In fact, the wisdom of the feminine seems to be a Simak ingredient.  And both his main characters, in both books, are in a way handicapped.

I intend to do a podcast about each of these books for Otherwhere gazette as soon as derpy me figures out the tech site, and maybe one of you edits them.  Until then, I’ll tell you the part of the blurb I remember for Way Station “Enoch Wallace didn’t die in the civil war.  He is not in his grave.”

It is not a zombie or vampire novel, but it deals with some of the same problems.  Enoch Wallace is a man who traded the Earth for the stars but can’t have either fully.  It is a novel of profound loneliness, a novel of a man who traded the normal life he could have had for high principles, for a better future for mankind.

It is also a gentle novel — I think because Simak was a gentle man (though I don’t know, never having heard much about him and knowing only he was a journalist and a family man.) — where both the natural world and the stars it touches are enchanted by a patina of wonder and touched with a reasonableness I can only call “the milk of human kindness.”

I challenge anyone not blinded by ideology and hate to read (or listen to) Way Station and find any of that he-man machismo and chest beating I hear old SF accused of.  If I compared Simak to any living writer, it would be Connie Willis (whose work I also love, even if we’re at political odds, and whom I was sad to see implicated by association — the picture — in the Federalist article.  Her Hugos, log rolling or not, corrupt process or not, were deserved.  It was her Lincoln’s Dreams that brought me back to reading and writing Science Fiction.  Which I suppose means the podcast series will end there.)

Yeah, Enoch Wallace carries a gun.  He is a man of the nineteenth century and rural.  If you’re going to scream, put a sock in it.  No, two socks.  I have no words for that kind of stupid crapweaseling.

I don’t know if I can bring myself at this time and in this place — and I mean particularly at this time and in this place — to believe in a world of reasonable and kind aliens (though there is a story reason for that.)

But I’m glad Simak did and that his work cast a golden light over my adolescence and now.  I’m glad too that he didn’t do that he man and cowering female that idiots and illiterates think classic sf means.  I doubt I would have loved that.  And without that love of the strange and wondrous my life would have been a lot poorer.

So, if you have a chance, read or listen to Way Station.  Note the big ideas and the sheer love for Earth and its creatures.

I’ll talk about it more/later in podcast, maybe as early as next week.  It’s a wonderful and worthy book.

It’s human wave all the way.

And then go and find a book that suits you the same way.  And if it doesn’t exist, write it.  There’s room in SF for all visions.  I was going to say “except for hate” but there’s room for that too, if that’s what you’re looking for.

Me, I’ll write what I love instead.  There isn’t time enough for hate.

311 responses to “A Way Station Into Science Fiction

  1. If I can’t read stories with hope and achievement, why would I bother reading science fiction at all?

  2. Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

    “Like SF in the 70’s” LOL

    It’s like the morons who hate the 1950’s but the 1950’s they hate never existed. [Sad Smile]

    • The heck they never existed — didn’t you see Back to the Future?

      When they say “back to the 70s” what they are talkin’ ’bout is (sorry – italicizin’ is too much bother) Star Trek, Star Wars, The Black Hole and that sort of SF. Not even Soylent Green.

      There is a technical term for such complainants: ID10T.

    • The 50’s had their own style, mostly optimistic, and in touch with their times. They were much less sensitive about racial flagwords and micro aggression. Mostly, the SJWs can’t figure a way to erase it totally to the memory hole.

      • Other than the giant ants, spiders, grasshoppers, lizards, rocks, and, of course, Go Go Godzilla, Mothra, and the others.

    • For that matter, they jam the fear of Communist infiltration from the (late 1940’s to early 1950’s) with the rock n’roll youth culture of the (late 1950’s to early 1960’s), and unironically celebrate how the Hippies (late 1960’s to early 1970’s) got beyond those fears, without grasping that in cold reality the Hippies were fooled by Communist infiltrators and for the most part ruined their lives to scripts written in Moscow.

  3. … atomic war hadn’t in fact happened.?”

    Tell that to the Japanese.

    • well, TOTAL atomic war. Sorry.

    • William O. B'Livion

      That wasn’t a war (the atomic part of it) that was a beat down.

      • It was sure a better option than putting everyone trought the meat grinder.

        • Through Not trought … Dang dang dang dang double dang dang!

        • Seeing as I rather like there being a Japanese people, and nothing but a total beat down would’ve stopped them before they effectively wiped themselves out… least bad option. And I am still pissed they didn’t mention the warning leaflets in school.

          • There’s so MUCH they didn’t mention in school, such as the fact that one of LeMay’s firebomb raids over Tokyo killed more people, and caused more damage, than either of the atomic bombs. That LeMay had authorization to burn down every city in Japan, if necessary. That the Japanese were trying to build a bomb themselves in Manchuria, and knew instantly that the Americans had succeeded where they had failed, and what that meant for Japan. Our “education” system sucks, all the way to the top.

            • In school, and still more in popular culture, they tend to talk about the atomic bombardment as if there was no ongoing war — as if America just develolped atom bombs and went “Oh well, why not drop them on Japan? We don’t like the Japanese …” for no good reason.

              • Anyone giving a moment’s thought to the matter should realize that if, after suffering the million casualties (taken; G-D alone knows how many inflicted) of an invasion of the Japanese homeland, the American Public had learned we had a “super-weapon” which Truman refused to deploy … impeachment would have been Harry’s best case scenario. Tar & feathers would have been second best case and it goes rapidly downhill from there.

            • Good grief, there was NO mention of the firebombing, other than an offhanded mention of US hitting the GERMANS.

              My dad had to explain the Bedknobs and Broomsticks plot point.

            • They also skip that the Germans were trying to build them, too

  4. And this is the sf/f these people talk about, only in their minds it was all monsters, scantily clad women and daring do THROUGH THE SEVENTIES and maybe even through the 2000s.

    Do they think this, or is it just convenient to claim> it? “We have always been at war with Eastasia.”

    • In every other ‘discussion’ or ‘fact’ brought under the light by progressives, their common/best strategy seems to be the belief if you repeat the lie enough, it becomes true.

    • It reminds me of that congresswoman who believed that slavery was still legal until 1964. In New York.

      • Why, Ah was bohn in New York … land of magnoias and mint juleps, in the dark days of 1964, right after the Great Unpleasantness. Mah family had a mammy … she’d been one of our people back in the 1950’s, when every Bronx Jew like mah Dad had a dozen or so darkies … before the Southrons came and burned down our plantation …

      • Ran across a like-“mind”ed soul online — in a Sad Puppies discussion — who actually thought that most of the 1% had fortunes derived from slavery.

        • well One could argue those who get their scads of money off cheap Chinese labor are getting theirs that way (and most all of those are giving mounds of it to the party of slavery … Democrat)

          • The biggest con the Left’s pulled has been the (mostly successful) attempt to make everyone forget that it was the Democrats who were the principal supporters not only of slavery but of post-slavery legally-mandated racial discrimination (and still are, with a mere change of victims).

  5. Christopher M. Chupik

    “pulps of the seventies.”

    Well, no. It was the heyday of the paperback series, mind you, which was kind of a pulp descendant. And you could still get Sword and Sorcery paperbacks with half-nekkid women and manly men on the covers.

    But that’s when grey goo was invading SF. There’s no way we want a return to THAT.

    • You mean that acid-pulp paper that hardens and yellows, with spontaneous combustion in 45-55 years?

    • The Seventies did feature the pulp REVIVAL, along with the Victorian nostalgia boom that brought us all those cool Seventies Sherlock Holmes pastiches (along with some uncool ones). But the pulp revival was mostly the Doc Savage, Shadow, mystery/sf/fantasy hero pulps. There was a bit of reprinting of Doc Smith, Leigh Brackett’s planetary romances, World-Wrecker Hamilton, E and O Binder, etc., and the Cthulhu mythos, but yeah, Doc Savage mostly.

      • I think that one reason that that happened was that the a good bit of the new stuff was SO BAD. I think that Jim Baen, Judy Lynne Delray and Donald Wolheim found it easy to just cut the old standards a check and run another reprint. And that stuff sold, so it worked out for everybody.

      • Doc S was in the ’60s; I had 50 or so I left with my bro when I left home in ’65,

      • Don’t forget Perry Rhodan! Spring of 1979 I picked up the entire run of the Ace Paperback editions for $10 at a garage sale, and proceeded to read the ENTIRE series (100+ books) over summer break. Was very annoyed I couldn’t find the privately published continuation anywhere.

  6. Christopher M. Chupik

    My last post makes me wonder: has anyone ever made a correlation between the rise of Fantasy and the decline of SF as an enjoyable genre?

    • Rather than fantasy, per se, I would probably blame D&D as the culprit. Or maybe it was just a cultural marker. Not sure. 1974 was when I got my first boxed set of D&D, and that seems to be fairly coincident with the rise of fantasy as a distinctly separate genre from SF. Lord of the Rings had been out here in the United States for a few years by that point in time, and that also might have been a watershed moment. Or maybe, it was just a perfect storm of things. The 60s drug culture being more sympathetic to fantasy, which seems more “natural,” appealing to a burgeoning back-to-a-simple-life aesthetic, combined with the Tolkien’s popularity, then the appearance of role-playing games. All of this happened within a short time period of about 1968-1975. There may be no one thing that drove it, it was just sort of in the air.

      • At the time it seemed to me as if The Sword of Shannara was the turning point, establishing a replicable formula for fantasy.

      • I would blame D&D too, but not in the same way. For the first time probably ever, you had a mass of people sitting down every week or so and having to come up with a STORY. A plot, characters, setting, etc. that could hold the attention of a group of nerds for 4-8 hours at a stretch. And between the ‘zines, module publishers, etc., there was somewhere for the most talented to sell the product and get the idea you could actually get paid for it. Can’t imagine a better writers training ground.

        And that doesn’t even count the ones that were more or less direct rip-offs. I don’t care how much she denies it, Elizabeth Moon lifted practically in toto the entire T1 Village of Hommlet AD&D module into the second Paksennarion novel, Divided Allegiance as Brewersbridge and environs. If Gygax had been alive when she published it, he’d have sued.

    • God love the old Seventies sf mags, and Spider Robinson was a decent reviewer, but some of those guys were awfully welcoming of crap and not kind at all to interesting books that have stood the test of time.

      Also, I think the general disenchantment after the Moon landing didn’t help, along with the weird opinion that there was nothing else to write sf about anymore.

      Shannara wasn’t the first book that attempted a Tolkien knockoff. It was just the first one (besides McKiernan) that made big money.

      • How might that be different if the space program hadn’t more or less stalled after that last moon landing?

        • This is one of the things for which I cannot forgive Richard M. Nixon. He killed Apollo, mostly as a petty “Take that!” to John F. Kennedy. Though, ironically, centuries from now the only thing for which he’ll be remembered (save by professional historians) is that he was President during the Lunar landings.

          • Was it that, or was it the Soviets had quit the space race, so that the geopolitical value of space exploration was gone. I. E., if the Soviets were no longer bankrupting themselves trying to keep up with us, there was no longer a point. All of us would love to believe that the space program was about exploration, but from the government’s point of view, the utility of the program in the Cold War had more to do with keeping the Soviets from spending money other places.

            • It was about the future, and the extent to which we would get to influence remote posterity. The tragedy of Nixon in this regard is that he grew to manhood before science fiction was respectable, so he couldn’t see the long-term potential of manned Lunar exploration in terms of the question of who would dominate and influence the society that would be born on the Moon in the 21st century. All he could see was the publicity stunt.

              He also couldn’t see even the short-term military importance of becoming expert in operations in space. He was no fool, but his vision was very limited.

            • The way i recall it was the space program effectively ended when the Democrats took overwhelming control of Congress following the ’74 election. Certes, William Proxmire (D-WI) was no fan of the program (see Larry Niven for second opinion on this.)

              • Whatever the reason, it sure is depressing to look at my Lunar globe and see the landing sites for Apollo 18,19,and 20.

              • The Democrats of the 1970’s had a lot of blame for this, but Nixon didn’t botther to fight them on it. He saw Apollo as essentially worthless. And in part simply because he hated JFK.

                Mind you, JFK was a smarmy, sleazy bastard who is idolized today mostly for getting murdered before the dirt came out on him. While Nixon was a mostly well-meaning man who got blamed for every character flaw, real and imagined.

                This doesn’t change the fact that, regarding space exploration, JFK was the visionary and Nixon the purblind.

              • The last Saturn V was built during the Johnson Administration. At most Nixon could be “blamed” for turning the two final boosters into giant lawn ornaments.

          • well, that and a silly burglary of an office in a certain hotel,

      • RealityObserver

        It’s amusing (and sad at the same time) to read those by Tom Easton. I always found him a reliable guide, though – if he praised it to high heaven, it was not even fit for garden mulch; if he shredded it, it was one to add to the permanent collection.

        (Been digging through my small Analog collection recently – speaking of Spider, ran across a Callahan’s Bar that I don’t have in a collection. Joy! Also an early Probability Zero by Rajnar Vajra – so far as I know, those have *never* been collected?)

    • There probably was some influence

    • I’ve suggested it but proved with data, no.

  7. oh, you’ve bought this.

    I would like this feature pf Amazon even more if it would correlate between different formats: “Oh, you’ve bought this. In hardbound, the 1993 edition.” Or “Oh, you’ve bought this, in BluRay.”

    Having such a backlog of reading matter that I could go three decades without buying more, re-reading nothing and still not be caught up I sometimes run into memory failure over whether I was searching for something or actually found it.

    • What? You don’t have a sortable database of your media including content tags, ratings, date of purchase, date of reading/viewing…?

      🙂

      • Used to, Zach, but extended untreated sleep apnea apparently destroyed the data retrieval sub-routine.

        Even more annoying, it destroyed my ability to multi-task two conversations, a TV program, a baseball game on radio while reading a book at one time. Now everything I hear seems to enter one ear and exit the other and I have a deeper appreciation of Vinny van Gogh’s thinking.

  8. Gordon Dickson was my first love SF. He wrote wonderful stories. Zeepsday and others. He wrote some great novels too. Timestorm is an unusual apocalyptic story. Dickson wrote about men and habit and actions. And of course all his famous stuff.

    • The first explicitly science fiction I remember reading (Jules Verne doesn’t count, I read everything he wrote in grade school, years before I discovered “science fiction”) was the Zero Stone stories by Andre Norton, which I discovered in seventh grade in the junior high school library.. I actually bought them again a couple of years ago, and it is amazing how well they stand the test of time.

  9. “Way Station” was published in 1963. I know because it was the first SF novel I read, at the local library, about ’64. Great entry today.

  10. Snuffy Smith, who was initially introduced as a supporting player in 1934, has now been the comic strip’s central character for over 60 years. Nevertheless, the feature is still titled Barney Google and Snuffy Smith.
    Strip began June 17, 1919.

  11. Enoch Wallace is a man who traded the Earth for the stars but can’t have either fully.

    A quick Google reveals Simak was born in 1904. When he was 12 (+ or -) he saw American Men marching off to war, few of whom would return undamaged. By the time he was 25 the Great Depression was commencing (well, the Stock Market Bubble had burst; it took the fiscal genius of FDR to create the Great Depression.) By his 36th birthday WWII was commencing and he would have had a front row seat for the 50s.

    Enoch Wallace was an example of the men who had sacrificed for a world — a family — that would be denied to them by virtue of that sacrifice. You can see this in many films, notably Ford’s The Searchers and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. It is an undercurrent in noir and a frequent theme in Louis L’Amour’s novels. Men sacrificing time with their families in order to provide for their families, men sacrificing their reputations to make their communities better, men putting the common good ahead of their personal well-being was something Simak and the America in which he grew up knew very well.

    You see somewhat the same theme in Heinlein’s The Man Who Sold The Moon, although the protagonist eventually gets to touch down (briefly and eternally) on Luna’s soil. It is a subtext of those who sacrifice for Free Luna in The Moon is a Harsh Mistress if you want to make that argument. It is also Moses standing in Canaan, looking beyond the river he can never cross.

    • This comment put me in mind of Jubal Harshaw’s lecture on Rodin. Higher praise I cannot give.

    • Warning: Do not read Way Station and follow it with Winterborn. It’ll put you in a really weird frame of mind.

      • Define “weird”?

      • Define Winterborn. Who? What? Checked Wiki and there are about a dozen possibilities.

        • I’m assuming it’s the darkwave band. Damn, I’d never heard of them. Checking out their songs now.

          • You talking about the Cruxshadows’ song?

            • I assume he is. At least, I looked it up and listened to it on You Tube and… do you know how long it’s been since I’ve actually liked a current pop song? “The Way” by Fastball was probably the last.

              • I don’t think you can really call Cruxshadows “popular” music.

                I know this crowd knows them pretty well, but not a whole lot of people outside of geekdom seem to know who they are.

              • Is that hair or a hat?

              • I know about them because Ringo used them in some of his books. They’re also personal friends.

                • Ringo quoted Winterborn at length, as I recall. They sound like an 80’s band, Duran duran’s Rio came to mind. and stuck

                • Like I say, fandom knows them pretty well. I think part that is John’s stuff. Between him and a buddy of mine here who knows them somewhat and talked about them (and I met them at DragonCon a couple years ago), I checked out their work, which is awesome.

                  But ask even the average music fan, and I’m willing to bet they’re unfamiliar with their work which is a damn shame.

                  • Yeah, John’s playlist got me to listen to Cruxshadows. And to give Imaginarium a try (I like classic Nightwish and wasn’t so certain about their newer sound. It’s growing on me. Still like Leaves Eyes more recent work better.)

        • It’s either a song, an album or a band.

  12. What else can you expect from people whose first question about someone with unfamiliar features is, “What are you?” As if an answer other than “Human” is expected?

    M

    • Good grief! And I thought I was mildly rude to say something like “the way you talk sounds familiar, but I can’t quite place it….” after several minutes of conversation! (Military bases; usually results in a really great story.)

      • I shocked a young woman stewardess on a trans-Atlantic flight when I asked her what part of Haarlem she was from. One of the people I worked with was married to a young woman from Haarlem, and I’d heard the distinct district accent for a couple of years by that time, and knew it. Now, my hearing’s so shot, and the tinnitus is so loud, that if you spoke to me in Japanese, I’d probably ask if you were from Boston.

  13. if you get bored with exercise, may I recommend a treadmill desk. I find it capable of holding remote controls for my TV, BluRay, AppleTV, and Raspberry Pi. It also holds a book stand–that accommodates Kindle and iPad, as well as two laptop computers and mouse. I can tolerate 2.5hrs on it without running out of things to distract. I made one myself for $100 in lumber + 1 weekend in labor

  14. Another Simak fan! I have never looked at a skunk, or a bowling ball, in the same way.

    But Way Station was formative for me, too. It was an exploration of the silences, the negative spaces, of the dream of stars.

    • Once we were driving a narrow road in West Virginia and the car behind us had only ONE headlight, in the middle. (I think someone had “fixed” it. My husband couldn’t understand what horrified me about it, until I gave him They Walked Like Men.

    • Goblin Reservation is another great Simak book. I find his writing calming, “pastoral” and often fun.

  15. Captain Comic

    Not to defend the CHORFs, but the late ’70s gave the Conan revival and, heaven help us, the beginning of God. They probably think of that and then just stop thinking.

    Note that I am not equating the two, Conan is considered classic for a reason. But the Frazetta and Frazetta-esqe covers probably got conflated in the mind of more than one person.

    • Captain Comic

      “the beginning of GOR.”

      Stupid Android keyboard/corrector…

      • John R. Ellis

        ….darn it. Finding out God was invented in the 1970s would actually probably make for a decent read. 🙂

        • God invented in the ’70s makes as much sense as the pulps of the ’70s, so there’s that.

          In spite of a definite interstin scantily clad women, my long hours in the local paperback SF sections back in the 1970s were more likely to lead me to RAH, Andre Norton, Niven and Pournelle, and Poul Anderson than naything with a Frazetta illustration.

          But maybe they are complaining about the materials, in a sense – anything that did not get published in most-holy-hardcover must by definition be substandard in the eyes of the look-at-me-I’m-elite. Paperbacks are intended as travel versions of bestselling paperbacks, don’cha’know, not a medium in themselves.

          The fact that my hours of happy browsing those chocked-full 8 foot tall paperback shelves would have been more like 5 minutes if everything had to be in harcover would have made my time in Jr. High and High School even more difficult than it was.

          • RealityObserver

            Curse of being raised in a medical-type family… I always looked at those paintings of scantily-clad women very carefully – wondering if even the best reconstructive surgeon could do anything for them.

      • I was a little puzzled…

    • Christopher M. Chupik

      Well, the Conan revival started in the ’60s. Sword and Sorcery was peaking in the ’70s and virtually died out in the early ’80s.

    • Actually, if you think about it there was all KINDS of “god” invented in the ’70’s. Does anybody else remember pyramid power? Or crystal energy? For that matter all the “green” ecology crap. And all those lunatic cults. There was some WEIRD shit in the ’70’s. And it wasn’t the drugs. though the drugs may have contributed.

      • And Mood Rings! You forgot Mood Rings!
        Do you know that Mood Rings stop working after like six months? The people who made them did, so they set the advertising campaign and everything to run for just under that time limit. So when the rings stopped working, nobody involved could be found as they had all take the money and run.
        I laughed so hard when I found that out…

        • In the 70s can also be found the birth of disco and (even worse) the advent of the singer-songwriter, both of which pegged the Sturgeonometer at the 99 percentile.

          • Disco was good for dancing, that was really all it was about. Unfortunately it got taken waaaaay too far. I didn’t mind hearing it when I went out to the clubs, if I was going out to dance, but other than that I had no desire to hear it at all.

            • Exactly. But it sure was good for getting up and shaking your hindquarters. Techno is a lot the same.

              • Ah, but without Disco we don’t suffer through polyester, leisure suits or platform shoes.

                Without Disco I bet we don’t even have to suffer through mullets.

        • RealityObserver

          Rocks for pets. Oh, well, beats rocks for brains…

          • No the rocks were pets!

            • The real point of Pet rocks was the funny owners manual that came with them. I still remember the picture of the the rock acting as a guard dog – a hand holding the rock ready to throw.

              I still have the actual rock somewhere. My mom picked one up as a joke.

    • A few months ago I was irritated with modern fiction in general so hied myself to Project Gutenberg and read the first antique that came to hand, which happened to be a VERY old Robert E. Howard piece (some Western-style adventure tale). And I’m like — now I see why Conan hooked me into SF/F in the first place. This is, above all, stellar *writing*. So easy to fall into its world, and free of distraction from the author.

      GOR is at book #33 and counting, so someone must like it… (I’ve read two; one was tolerably entertaining, the other bored me and I never went back.)

      • RealityObserver

        Gor was reasonably decent fantasy up through, IIRC, book 3 or 4.

        Then Daw Books got hold of John Norman… (Met him once, BTW – John Morressy was my English Lit professor, and knew him.)

      • Gor became less fantasy/SF and more soft core bondage porn as the series dragged on. In many ways I think it’s popularity has much to do with the fact that it practically revels in just how un-PC it is.

        I’ve sold them used for years. It always struck me as amusing the fact that the vast majority of Gor used book buyers wrre female. Which is why the popularity of 50 Shades of Gray didn’t surprise me.

      • Speaking of Gor (I read three or four as a teenager and then thought, “Ick,” and that was that), John Norman’s open letter to the Millennium Philcon organizers, still online at Locus, seems remarkably au courant: http://www.locusmag.com/2001/Departments/Letters10Norman.html

        • My mother noticed a copy of ‘Slave Girl of Gor’ in my pile of library books in 6th grade, and refused to let me bring anything by him home. I assumed it was like Conan, apparently it wasn’t.

  16. Pingback: A Way Station Into Science Fiction | According To Hoyt - SciFi Picks

  17. Gods, but they’re flailing desperately, aren’t they?

    The thing is, so much of what the Liberal Intellectual Radical Progressive left venerates is indefensible that the LIRPs have to be constantly on the attack lest somebody demand an examination of their tripe.

    Now, I know that it is the pestilential preaching that we find most objectionable, followed by the inherent fascism (which is especially irksome coming from people who prate about diversity). But the weak points are that they stuff is vulgar and tiresome.

    Take PISS CHRIST, for example. Now, most of the objections to its display have centered on its offensiveness. But that isn’t a weak point. That is its entire raison d’être. The weak point is that its offensiveness is banal, and it could be duplicated by a high school sophomore in an afternoon. In short, it is vulgar (not merely lacking in good taste, but also in sophistication) and tiresome. It doesn’t challenge assumptions, it doesn’t make people think, it is simply a sophomoric shock-joke.

    And a great deal of the LIRPs litany is rather like that. It is cookie cutter work by profoundly talentless people. It’s vulgar and tiresome.

    Forget “Offensive”. Forget “Depressing”. Forget “Preachy”. The LIRPs intend to be all three. Highlight banal, vulgar, tiresome, and talent-proof. And watch the LIPRs lose their minds.

    • Yeah. This is why when I pointed out that If You Were A Dinosaur is not only plotless and poorly researched but ALSO insults the very prols they CLAIM to love, they lost their sh*t. They still are mad at me, i.e. see Arthur Chu over that.

      • Then they’re going to love my responsive piece of fiction.

        At least I know what the American working class and “lower” class likes to drink in a bar.

        • BobtheRegisterredFool

          I’m teetotal, prefer to spend time indoors, have not exactly seen much violence, and even I know that the details are wrong.

          I had to be told that, yes, gin really does have a distinctive smell.

          I know that if I want to do a better version of the beating, with dock workers using their Malacca canes, I need to set it in a very different future society.

      • It’s also not science fiction. The only thing that makes it science fiction is that the revenge-fantasy that the angry fiancee has involves wishing that her beloved could have turned into a dinosaur and slain his attackers. It could as easily have been “If You Were a Kung Fu Master, My Love” or “If You Had Been Packing Two Revolvers, My Love” and it would have been basically the same story.

      • Maybe we need a statuette of Arthur Chu and Barney the Dinosaur getting ‘married’. That could then be the “Barney”, the sci-fi equivalent of the Raspberry or Bulwer-Lytton Award.
        Seriously, that piece of … sets new benchmarks for awfulness.

    • Good plan.

  18. I gave what I could for Drow; I only wish I could have done more. I have no experience with the type of grief she’s undergoing. The closest is what a friend underwent. Her grief seemed boundless.
    My daughter has supported a local mission for several years – I know it’s not an option for Shadowdancer to visit there, but maybe they have resources that would help her in dealing with her loss. They are in my prayers.
    https://www.facebook.com/HopeMommies?fref=ts

  19. John R. Ellis

    It’s very frustrating when the side that complains a LOT about “erasure” pretends female authors in SF and Fantasy were ignored (or worse, just didn’t exist) before 2010.

    Then one realizes: To them, the classic SF and fantasy female authors literally do not exist. Because those women were not “enlightened” or didn’t hate men or even (gasp) “didn’t write about important gender issues”….yeah, the uppity past authors seemed to put character and story FIRST.

    Like that counts.

    • That’s a really good insight.

    • I guess Ursula LeGuin and Lois McMaster Bujold aren’t “female” enough for them 😉 But of course, they don’t count because they can actually write and succeed without “help” from the mutual brown-nosing society.

    • To them, NOTHING that they haven’t acknowledged exists. It’s either illusory, or wrong, or mistake, or propaganda. Those women back in the day either aren’t women, or had “internalized the patriarchy / their oppression”, and thus can be safely discounted.

      Never mind that this attitude of discounting the things you don’t believe in or that contradict your view of reality can lead to dehumanizing others, and that leads to very bad places quickly.

  20. I don’t remember that many stories where the women would have been just objects to be rescued. Not even the oldest I have read. They usually had an actual character, and did do things, including important things. Dejah Thoris may have gotten in peril a lot, but she made her own decisions, not just waited and wailed. Jane Porter was a bit more scared in the beginning, but as Jane Clayton she shaped up pretty well, and did learn more than a bit of her husband’s bushcraft with time. The ladies from the Lensmen series weren’t exactly props in those stories. Heinlein had his engineers and scientists and the Empress and Hazel Stone.

    Yes, the screamers I remember were mostly in the movies, not in books, at least not the books I remember reading. The women in the older books perhaps did less derring do, less fisticuffs or sword fights (they did use guns though, often enough), but they were most times respected for their opinions and listened to, did have those opinions and contributed in other ways. Even when they got used as the Maccuffin. And frankly, I don’t see all that much wrong with the Maccuffin part either, maybe because I am a romantic and the idea of a man (or men) willing to turn over heaven and earth over some imperiled female does appeal to me, at least as long as the woman or girl in question is somebody I can like as a character. Sure, nice to have variation, and sometimes use of a brother or a son or father or friend or important scientist or whatever is good too, but usually some specific human tends to get imperiled in those stories sooner or later anyway so why not the romantic interest if there is one. Yep, gay – or lesbian – lovers can work too, but there are more heteros around so… and yes, sometimes it’s also nice if the woman is the protagonist and the love interest in peril the guy, but since I DO like manly men protagonists I still want to read a lot of stories with them too. Variety…

    (And sometimes it’s way more fun – when the girl needs to do the rescuing – if she isn’t the Xena type able to go one on one with big burly men, but has to resort to more sneaky ways to achieve her ends. Pile on the obstacles, thank you. Xenas have their place and I do love them but there are too many around right now. They were more fun when they were rarer. I love the surprise when somebody who doesn’t look like he/she is dangerous, perhaps especially physically, turns out to be so. Now if we had more female heroes around who aren’t Xenas the Xenas would stand out that much more, as it is you can pretty much assume that if there is a female hero she is a Xena, it’s the default mode right now).

    Have to admit it was funny though when girl in Star Smashers of the Galaxy Rangers had to hit one of the male heroes – protagonists were two guys, one girl, one older male – on the head with a teapot (or something) before they noticed her input.

    Only scene I remember from that novel, by the way. Wasn’t overly impressed with it. But that one scene was funny. Maybe because I have been where she was more than a few times, and the temptation has been there. Character fault, I’m the shy in groups type who tends to end up mostly unnoticed in group discussions especially if the discussion starts to heat up. But since that girl character was pretty extrovert, as far as I remember, I guess the idea in that story was that they ignored her just because she was the girl… so Harry Harrison was maybe making a parody of something which was more of a myth than reality, the way something like ‘Timmy is in the well, again’ seems to have been, unless he wrote the story more as an answer to movies than to books.

    Of course I suppose it’s also possible there have been countless bad SF novels where the lady was JUST a screamer in constant peril. If so I seem to have missed most of them. Presumably if they existed they never sold all that well.

    • Clarissa “Red” Kinnison, the Red Lensman, was the first heroine to prove you could win a psionic battle with an evil telepath and look fabulous doing it.

      And Colonel Wilma Deering was not one for languishing and waiting to be rescued, My favorite scene in the Buck Rogers serial was where she got tired of waiting for Buck and Buddy to rescue her from Killer Kane’s prison, grabbed a guard’s disintegrator and shot her way out…

      • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

        Well you realize that in the second “Buck” Roger’s book, she rescued Buck from the city of the Han. [Wink]

      • Christopher M. Chupik

        Nita Van Sloan in The Spider pulp was Richard Wentworth’s partner in love and crimefighting. She predated the feminist movement by about 30 years.

      • RealityObserver

        The first “Skylark.” Dorothy nails a thug right in the solar plexus (she was a member of high society, remember). Few pages later, Margaret calmly informs the same thug that one threat earns him one bullet… Oh, yeah, helpless females!

    • I don’t remember that many stories where the women would have been just objects to be rescued.

      For fun, try it with other things– ever notice how few Disney Princesses actually fit the cookie cutter format that gets thrown at them?

    • Been trying to think of any, and I can’t come up with any “help! save me!” helpless females as far back as the SF/F eye can see. About the closest might be when they’re stuck in jail or tossed out in an escape pod, a situation where =anyone= would be relatively helpless.

      • There was one in Fighting Man of Mars

        Which is how she lost the hero.

      • Fantasy has a few. A few Conan stories, if I remember right, and while Valeria in Red Nails starts as a warrior she becomes pretty helpless towards the end. But they have never been the rule. And if we move to other types of literature… no, not that much in anything. Limpest female I remember offhand was the Maccuffin woman in The Woman in White, and even that novel has the quite resourceful ugly half sister.

    • may I point out that in starship troopers, the grunts, the dog foots, the M.I.’s were male. the starship pilots/ commanding officers of major ships of war were all female (because they could do the math). gosh that RAH sure did must hate women, because something something something tolerance.

      • It also had to do with their reaction time and stamina, if I recall correctly. Possibly also their ability to think in multiple streams.

      • Interesting you mention this. During his WW II assignments, Heinlein must have bumped up against what they called “computers” then: members of a group of actual humans with mechanical calculators to which numerical integrations etc. were task-farmed out. These were almost always staffed by women because men had a reputation of having trouble staying on task.

  21. It is known in our family that if a tv series is about something we know or do — math, or writing, for ex — the person who knows the most about it can’t watch it. You should see Dan when the Numbers thing came up.

    NCIS and Major Pain are the only modern military movies I can think of where my dad, my husband and myself can stand to watch them. Not because there are zero things “wrong,” but because the things that are inaccurate aren’t in a really dumb way– and I was shocked as could be when I found out that “Gibbs” had never been in the military. 😀

    When people “know” they don’t need to do any research on something because “everybody knows,” it’s probably gonna be painful.

  22. Oooh, so that poorly done “the aliens are humanoid because we’re all related, kind of” episode was actually a call-back to Fred Hoyle’s theory? (popularized, looks like– I know that variations of it are still popular on Coast to Coast)

    Heck with a history, I think you may need to write a bunch of histories and a wiki.

  23. I had Simak’s work recommended to me in High School in the early 70s by the same friend who introduced me to Lord of the Rings. I still haven’t read it. Then again, I haven’t noticed it on library or bookstore shelves or searched it out.

  24. There is ALWAYS time and room enough for hate…as long as you strip everything else out of your life.

  25. Now I’m going to have to look for a copy. Amazon has them, starting at like $80 bucks! 😛
    I hate the people who scam on Amazon like that.

    • John, there is an audio, so there might be an ebook. Also look in ebay.

      • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

        If anybody see the ebook, let me know because I haven’t seen it in e-format. [Frown]

      • John try abebooks

        • bookfinder4u.com has a better search engine. I’m not sure if it does primary searches or just metasearches, but it will usually bring up all the AbeBooks hits plus a couple other such sites (whose names escape me) and will often include hits that AbeBooks’ search doesn’t find.

    • Captain Comic

      ABEbooksDOTcom has Way Station for less than six to ten bucks.

      Can be less if you buy something else from the same seller and combine shipping.

    • I have a copy of Way Station, and NOBODY’S going to get it as long as I can still manage to read it every year or two! I read it the first time right after I’d washed out of the Academy, in 1964. Still one of the best scifi books I’ve ever read, and I’m a devoted Heinlein fan. It, Starship Troopers, and a couple of other mil scifi from that era taught me that my first duty was to the Mission, not to the Book. Of course, the elite believe in the Book Uber Alles, so my career ended once the mission was no longer the prime objective.

  26. Wow – all of Simak to look forward to: what a treat that would be. For some inexplicable reason I link Fritz Leiber to him – probably from a roommate’s bookshelves back in college. Lord of the Rings and Dune were on those shelves.

    This explains why I’ve spent so much time in used book stores when on vacation, and why I’m considering joining SP – when you find so few current offerings that will get the mind moving in interesting ways something just isn’t right. (Well, yes, a *lot* of things aren’t right, but if one rock can start an avalanche “Why shouldn’t I push this one”?)

    • Between Feedbooks and Gutenberg, there’s a TON of Fritz Lieber available for Kindle and Nook — two or three novels and a dozen short stories. I think there are a couple also available on Amazon, but I can’t remember. I think, altogether, there are somewhere like 8500 free scifi books on the Internet. Some of them are classics, some are new. Baen has about 25-30 in their free library, including one of Sarah’s (Draw One in the Dark). Nothing wrong with downloading free ebooks. I’d be re-reading old ones more often without them, and a few I missed, moving around the world every 12-36 months.

  27. Interesting. My first sci-fi that I remember (books, not film), were the Space Cat books, followed by Pern, then Boris Vallejo’s _The Boy Who Saved the Stars_. Norton didn’t click at first (10 is too young and impatient for _Witchworld_.) Then _The Gods Themselves_ and _Childhood’s End_. Read the latter in 4th grade and I could not understand why the book creeped my teacher out. [My parents sent a copy to my grade-school principal. I come by my Oddness through nurture and nature.]

    • I preferred Norton’s SF: Space and rockets and stuff: “The Stars are Ours” and “Star Born”, “The Beast Master” and “Lords of Thunder”, the Forerunner series, Star Rangers, Time Traders, the Zero Stone, “Moon of Three Rings”… I could go on. Witchworld was good, but everything after the second book, and nearly all the High Halleck series started to get too weird for me to follow. The characters couldn’t figure out what was going on with increasingly bizarre magical illusions and neither could I.

      • I returned to Witchworld in my 30s and really enjoyed them, but you’re right. After the Turning you need a scorecard, map, and patience.

      • I recently read some Norton. Ice Crown, Catseye, and Dread Companion — but Forerunner Foray made me wonder how I missed so much. From motive problems to the way the main characters treated landing in a past country as a chance to exploit everyone there to rob a grave.

    • first SF book that i remember was The Runaway Robot.

    • I started reading the “Lucky Starr” series at about 7-8 (2nd-3rd grade), and went on from there. Our school did not have an elementary school library, but the Parish branch library was just down the road from the (1-12) school. I think I probably paid about a $1000 in fines, since I was very good about checking books out, but not so good taking them back in (at least, not until I’d read them two or three times). From there, I graduated to Heinlein, Norton, Asimov, and a few dozen others. I think the first Heinlein I read was “Have Space Suit, Will Travel”. That was also the time I was soaking up everything else I could read (how many kids had read “The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich” at age 12?), including at least one dictionary and about 2/3 of the American Peoples’ Encyclopedia set my parents bought when I was in first grade. Definitely an “Odd”!

  28. Bruce Abbott

    Just sent $10 to Shadowdancer thru your link, also saw it mentioned at “Monster Hunter Nation”. I read “Waystation” in the early ’70’s, and was immediately struck by Simak’s ability to create pictures in my head. The whole story rolled out like a film. It would make a hell of a movie, and I’d like to see Nick Cage (don’t make faces!) take the lead. Just do me a favor and leave out the giant rodent in the top-hat…

  29. Professor Badness

    As a kid, I didn’t want to read. I come from a family of readers, so my Mother was concerned. She looked at what they gave me to read, “See Spot run. Run, Spot, run.”
    Riveting as that was, she decided to make me read her “For Love of Mother Not”, by Alan Dean Foster. I read it out loud, and was hooked by the time I was halfway through.
    I will forever bless her name for that introduction to an ever widening world.
    Our hearts and prayers go with Shadowdancer. We hurt for you, which is, alas, all that we can do for now.

  30. I have it in .epub

  31. Simak has always been a favorite of mine and Way Station in particular. I read it sometime in the mid seventies when I was on a kick of reading Hugo Award winning novels. I’m surprised no one has yet mentioned that Way Station won the Hugo in 1964, though it’s possible people are thrown off because it’s sometimes attributed to the novel’s original title, Here Gather the Stars.

    Seeing someone above mentioning that all the copies on Amazon were really expensive, I tried some searches to help people find this book. I turned up some reasonably priced copies at AbeBooks.com:

    http://www.abebooks.com/servlet/SearchResults?an=Clifford+Simak&bi=0&bx=off&ds=30&recentlyadded=all&sortby=17&sts=t&tn=Way+Station

    Though some books are better than others, I don’t think you can really go wrong with Simak’s work.

  32. I discovered Simak through a “Best of” series, from a supermarket in the seventies (I thought it was one from the Ballantine/Del Rey best of series, but I can’t find any mention of it online now; we did not get anything particularly obscure at the Meier’s Thrifty Acres, though some have become obscure since). And then Destiny Doll confused the hell out of me. (I need to find it and re-read it.) I only recently read Way Station, and it was just beautiful in its gentleness and wonder. I have Project Pope at the top of my queue and am looking forwards to it. And Goodreads keeps telling me I need to read City, I should heed its advice.

  33. Christopher M. Chupik

    The Arthur Chu tweet Sarah mentions is this one:

    “Arthur Chu ‏@arthur_affect · 23h23 hours ago
    Remember when Sarah Hoyt went on a tirade Rachel Swirsky was classist bc she wrote a hate crime taking place in a bar” (link to old ATH post on That Dinosaur Crap follows)

    • Which is, of course, true. What she wrote was a prime example of classist BS, because she doesn’t understand the “people” she’s writing about.

      At all.

      Just at the mention of “gin”, I cringed.

      • BobtheRegisterredFool

        In a previous life in ancient Egypt, we would drink Kentucky Bourbon before beating Thai to death while calling them commies.

        This was after the incident with the time machine during the counter terrorism op against that group of Reds.

  34. Way Station? Cool. Was at the top of my list of favorite sf books for years. Despite the Hugos being a sensitive subject, because I love the book I have to point out the compeition when it won in 1964 — Glory Road by Robert A. Heinlein, Witch World by Andre Norton, Dune World by Frank Herbert and Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. (The Herbert nominee was the serialized version; the full novel won later on.)

    • I WANT that type of competition again — which necessitates enlarging the pool of voters and, dare I say it, the pool of Subtastes, so there’s excellent quality but more choice.

    • I should add I have very catholic tastes. I like both literature (mostly really literature not ‘literary’ SF though if you include Willis in that, I love her stuff, and space opera. I read sf, mystery and romance and any number of history books. The slate I’d like has something for everyone and genuinely stomps me as for whom to vote for. We’re not there yet. Ca ira.

      • I would never have thought to categorize Willis in “literary SF.” I think of her writing as being in the category of “deceptively effortless”—that is, you think there’s no art to it until you try to replicate it and realize how much craft there is.

        I own just about all of her stuff in durable format, the major exception being Doomsday Book because most of the HB covers drove me up the wall. (I know, I know, don’t judge a book by its cover, but I’m an artist and an awful cover on a book that good just bothers me.)

  35. Great piece, maybe Chuck will understand it? Nahh, you’re just part of the conspiracy. Keep it up Sarah, and I hope you continue to take care of yourself.

  36. Meredith Dixon

    Yes, they’re definitely chronologically challenged. I ran across a recent reissue of Sargent’s *The Shore of Women* which was described in a review as a seminal SF classic, groundbreaking in its time. Its setting, of course, is a world where women maintain an all-female civilization (their sons are sent out to become nomadic hunter-gatherers). It wasn’t that bad a story, though I found it padded and overblown, but it was published in *1986*. By that time, it was neither seminal nor groundbreaking — particularly since the reviewer seemed to think that its groundbreakingness lay in its having a strong female protagonist. But even if we stick strictly to the setting itself, Poul Anderson’s *Virgin Planet* was published in 1959.

    But, you say, Anderson’s work was a comedy. Okay, fine. Charlotte Perkins Gilman wrote *Herland* in 1915. Now, *that’s* seminal and groundbreaking.

    • Sargent’s *The Shore of Women* which was described in a review as a seminal SF classic

      Seminal is sexist; what it was was germinal. Or rather, it wasn’t because the ground had long since been broken (and the story had nothing original to say — a common problem of pedantophiles.)

      • No, no, Germinal is a novel by Zola. Set in the mines, often considered a fore-runner to later fictional works that use environment as a driving character (see C. Richter _Sea of Grass_.) *sigh* Really. What are they teaching in the schools these days?

  37. RealityObserver

    Sigh. Vote in the Hugos – help a wonderful person in pain – vote – help.

    No contest. Hugos are not people.

    BTW, when is the deadline for supporting memberships? You never know, my fantastic healthy son, thank God for that, still hasn’t gotten in the habit of cleaning out his pockets before I get hold of them for laundry…

    • You’ve got a couple of months yet, depending on your reading speed. (I believe the voting deadline is mid-July.)

  38. I do remember throwing one against the wall when the “typical colonization novel” was turned on its head and the fearless leader died in a horrible manner, then one by one, till the only survivor — the self-rocking, cringing hysteric — kills himself.

    That may have been We Who Are About To … , by Joanna Russ. My review of it is <a href="http://jordan179.livejournal.com/156237.html"here.

  39. “In the same way, sff came through in movies and series as what it had never been, the myth of the forties and fifties SF/F about scantily clad women and monsters. (To be fair, the covers were like that. And if you didn’t read it…)” I do remember one story (likely a ’50s pulp–ran across some; Startling Stories, Thrilling Wonder Tales, are all I remember. I was subscribing to Astounding Amazing, and Galaxy) where the guy had a full-body uniform-type outfit, and the girl had a 2-piece, and they commented on that–that women preferred such clothing (those show-offs!).

    • … women preferred such clothing (those show-offs!).

      Sure — it can be both more comfortable (ever try to get out of a body-stocking for an emergency dump? — and such outfits have proven their effectiveness at diminishing effective male intelligence. A strong, self-reliant, ambitious woman would hardly eschew any weapon at hand.

      • Have to share this comic about scant armor. It’s the sound effect that really makes it.

        • Patrick Chester

          Science! 😉

        • Wendy Pini used to talk about chainmail bikinis when she cosplayed for Frank Thorne when he was writing Red Zonja and Ghita of Alizarr: “You could hear the WHOOP! WHOOP! WHOOP! for two floors when I put that on first thing in the morning…”

        • Feather Blade

          The first book I read that riffed on this idea was some Forgotten Realms book back in the 80s – they mentioned the attackers aiming for the “hit-me-here” hole in the heroine’s chain shirt, and their arrows bouncing off her skin because the armor was magic. ^_^

  40. I have to admit, I have read Simak, but after 50+ years, I only remember his name. I may have some books in the basement.

  41. The first SF I remember reading were some of the James Blish Star Trek novelizations. I was about 10 or 11 at the time. When those were exhausted, I looked to see what else was on my dad’s bookshelf, and in short order discovered Jack Vance, Keith Laumer, Isaac Asimov, A Bertram Chandler, and Poul Anderson. Raiding the local library gave me Andre Norton, Robert Heinlein, JRR Tolkien, Fritz Leiber, many others. Pretty much if it had a spaceship or a dragon on the cover, I was there. And all of this before I was about 15 years old.

  42. Alan E Nourse had some good stuff, in our public library, way back when.
    Raymond F Jones had one novel in our library. “The Year When Stardust Fell.” Post apocalyptic fiction, of a sort. He’s on gutenberg!

  43. Sarah, you’re probably familiar with James Lileks (if you’re not, you’re missing out!–www.lileks.com). He’s a columnist for the Minnesota Star-Tribune and recently blogged an interesting photo taken from the spot where Simak had his desk during his long tenure as news editor at the paper. It’s about halfway down: http://lileks.com/bleats/archive/15/0315/030415.html.

    And about three years ago he also posted a shot of an interview with Simak that ran in the paper…unfortunately it’s not all there, but I’d love to see the whole thing, as Simak talks about how it’s getting harder and harder to write good science fiction… http://www.lileks.com/bleats/archive/12/0512/052212.html

  44. Should have mentioned Lileks is also having great fun posting and commenting on old Ace SF covers from the 50s and 60s. http://lileks.com/misc/scifi/index.html

  45. I have liked SF writers of just about every political persuasion. Surely, if you don’t, you don’t really get SF? I met my first same-sex characters in love in SF; Diane Duane “Door into Fire” (which had a wonderfully pulpy cover).

    On the utopian/dystopian thing, it sees to be a principle that when things are bad (1930s, 1940s), folk write utopias, and when they are on the up (1950s and after), people write dystopias. A form of emotional displacement perhaps.

    • One of the beautiful things about science fiction is that it leads one to speculate about love between different sapient species, who may have very different concepts of sexuality. After that, the thought of love between two members of the same sex of one’s own species no longer seems so strange. And, since I know you’re also “Erudito,” I know why that must have been emotionally-significant and beautiful to you — to see this sort of thing publicly displayed in fiction.

      • I know this is going to shock everyone but what always attracted me to SF was the relationships between humans/non humans/are they human. And yes, like our racial differences, our sexual differences seem minor by comparison.
        I just wish I know why I end up with so many gay characters. I mean, not that anyone has complained…
        Kate Paulk says my writing “gateway” is in the gay bar zone of character world. Which she says is preferable to hers which is in the Evil Bastard bar zone. 😛

        • Doesn’t shock me. What shocked me, growing up on science fiction as I did, was how few people believe that rights should inhere in sapience rather than physical form, and how little most people believed or cared when we found evidence of the sapience of many kinds of higher animals.

    • Nah, they’re not on the up now. The “dark” is considered more literary. Eh. Maybe that’s why we’re fighting.

      • The thing is, even in the ‘dark’ there can be a glimmer of hope and light. See: Cruxshadows and other bands in their genre (Covenant, VNV Nation, Assemblage 23, etc) and see.. well.. Batman.

    • Hi Erudito! It’s nice to see you here =)

      Interesting bit about the utopian/dystopian idea of emotional displacement. It doesn’t seem so constant to me these days, although I grant that I’m not the best person to use as a metric. Which half of the utopia/dystopia metric do you think is trending these days, if you don’t mind my asking?