Wednesday 26 February 2014

SF Classic: 'CITY' by Clifford D Simak


 is an established award-winning Sci-Fi classic. 
How does it stand up to the passage of decades? 


Dogs, like cats, do not have opposable thumbs. Which means they can’t grasp, handle or shape objects. When it comes to a species replacing human beings in some conjectural future-history, this puts them at a distinct disadvantage. Science Fiction has frequently ruminated on who or what will inherit the world once the human race has shuffled off to extinction. Those bets that have not gone to machines or artificial-intelligences have gone to insects who, although individually incapable of all that opposable-thumbs stuff, use a kind of hive-mind specialisation that enables them to achieve things collectively. Otherwise, the most obvious world-inheritors are other hominid species. Making the Earth a ‘Planet Of The Apes’. There are movies, and re-imagined remakes of movies exploring that possibility.

But dogs? Dogs feature in SF with some frequency. There’s the wise ‘Blood’, who forms a supportively telepathic partnership with Vic in Harlan Ellison’s post-apocalypse “A Boy And His Dog” (‘New Worlds’ no.189, April 1969). In ‘Sirius’ (1944) Olaf Stapledon envisages a dog raised to levels of human intelligence by scientific interventions, with poignantly tragic consequences. Clifford D Simak also has ‘Towser’, the doggy companion of Yankee tinkerer-handyman Hiram Taine, who sniffs out the glasslike spaceship buried beneath his house in the highly-rated “The Big Front Yard” (‘Astounding SF’, October 1958). But as for dogs inheriting the world once we’ve gone, only Simak has ventured that far. His story-cycle that makes up ‘City’ (1952) forms that future canine race’s Genesis-myth, texts as ancient and as disputed to them as the Torah, the Epic of Gilgamesh, or Homer are to us.

Clifford D Simak was born 3 August 1904, and grew up in ‘the farm country of southwestern Wisconsin’. He studied journalism at the university of Wisconsin, graduating into a newspaper career with the ‘Minneapolis Star & Tribune’. His story “Sunspot Purge” (‘Astounding SF’, November 1940) cleverly satirises the journalist legman’s trade, with reporters from ‘The Globe’ photographing a suicide-jumper ‘hitting the sidewalk’, ‘no newsman in his right mind objects to a little violence, for that’s what news is made of’. Despite such tongue-in-cheek cynicism he later defends the trade by arguing ‘newspaper work develops a questioning mind, seeking the unsuspected elements that may lie behind the surface fact. Even while he seeks the truth, however, the newsman is quite aware that there is no such thing as simple truth, nor, for that matter, an absolute truth’ (in his ‘Introduction’ to ‘The Best Of Clifford D Simak’, Sidgwick & Jackson, 1975). It was a vocation Simak pursued for most of his life. He only got to write SF full-time during his retirement.

 Meantime, his first published story was “The World Of The Red Sun” in the December 1931 issue of Hugo Gernsback’s ‘Wonder Stories’. Later, when compiling the story into his ‘Before The Golden Age’ (Doubleday, 1974) Isaac Asimov recalls how, as an enthusiastic school-kid, he’d entertained other youngsters by reciting the story from memory. And it’s easy to see how it would have excited the young Asimovian imagination. Although obviously written under the HG Wells spell, the story plays with the concept of ‘curving space about you’ to enable forward-travel through time. While this is a pretty advanced space-time continuum idea, it’s just the techno-hook on which to hang the story.

 Billed as ‘Adventures Of Future Science’ the magazine issue packs in stories by John Taine and Arthur K Barnes plus a cover-illustrated Edmond Hamilton “The Reign Of The Robots” showing a girl being carried off across a red landscape by a sinister wheeled dome-headed robot. Simak’s fiction debut, also cover-blurbed and with striking interior art by Frank R Paul, concerns two young scientists – Harl Swanson and Bill Kressman, who kiss the future-1935 behind with the swing of a lever. Their time-machine is also an aircraft, an idea he reprises in “Sunspot Purge”. But when their time-gauge malfunctions they emerge millions of years into the future, suspended over the vast desolate ruins of what they assume to be Denver, beneath a huge red sun. At moments of stress they pause to light up cigarettes.

 Captured by primitive future-men the pair are cast into the arena of Golan-Kirt, a hovering disembodied brain with a curving beak and two tiny lidless eyes who ‘came out of the Cosmos’ to rule this dying Earth through mind-control. A battle of brain-emanations ensues, in which the time-travellers victory is short-lived because, attempting to return to their own time, they instead become trapped on a dead world at the end of time. So is it a good story? The downbeat dénouement is unusual for of its time, while its wafer-thin characters are obviously yet to develop the nuanced depth of Simak’s later creations. Although a ‘simply and straightforwardly told’ romp according to Asimov, it’s a fairly inventive yarn striving for a sense of awe and wonder, while never neglecting the forward thrust of adventure.

 He followed it with three more rapid sales to the Gernsback stable, two for ‘Wonder Stories’ – “Mutiny On Mercury” (March 1932) in which hero Tom Clark outwits a Martian and Selenite insurrection, and “The Asteroid Of Gold” (November 1932) with its fast-action concerning planetoid-prospectors and claim-jumpers, plus “The Voice In The Void” (to ‘Wonder Stories Quarterly’, Spring 1932) in which puzzling relics are discovered in a sacred Martian tomb. There’s also one sale to ‘Astounding Tales’ under editor Harry Bates (“Hellhounds Of The Cosmos”, June 1932) venturing into extra-dimensional space to confront an unspeakable horror terrorising the world. Characterised by their generally optimistic vision of the human future, in which ‘today he does much more than he did yesterday. Tomorrow he’ll do even more than he did today!’, they’re never without usefully plot-generating problems. Action-adventure, but not really what we consider ‘Simak’ territory.

Chafing against the restrictions of the pulp genre, his fiction-presentation of a godless cosmos in “The Creator” was passed over by a succession of magazine editors who feared accusations of blasphemy, until the novelette ended up in ‘Marvel Tales Of Science And Fantasy’ (March/April 1935). After this opening spurt of tales published in extravagant pulps he’d more or less resolved to give up writing SF, until he learned that John Campbell had newly assumed editorship of ‘Astounding’. He respected Campbell, and gauged that under his regime he’d have scope for more imaginative writing, and so it proved. The respect was returned. According to SF academic/novelist James Gunn, Campbell not only ‘reinvigorated or redirected’ Simak’s writing, but enabled its development. Isaac Asimov dates the dawn of Science Fiction’s ‘Golden Age’ precisely to 1938, when twenty-eight year-old Campbell assumed the ‘Astounding’ editorial-chair. It was Campbell who defined the consensus of new possibilities.

 And Beginning with “Rule 18” in the July 1938 issue, a playful time-travel idea about recruiting an all-star football team from past greats, Simak became an early mainstay of the magazine. His stories continued to appeared elsewhere, such as ‘Thrilling Wonder Stories’ – “The Loot Of Time”, December 1938, about time-travel safaris going back 70,000 years to hunt sabre-toothed tigers, and ‘Astonishing Stories’ – “Madness From Mars”, April 1939 featuring a homesick Martian fur-ball. Although its ultrasonic distress cries are unintentionally lethal, this is also Simak’s first sympathetic alien. Yet the writer himself later calls these ‘truly horrible examples of an author’s fumbling agony in the process of finding himself’, perhaps referring to the line about spaceship ‘Hello Mars IV’ ‘spurning space-miles beneath its steel-shod heels’. They were good, but better things were to come.

It was Campbell who published most of the work that would become ‘City’, the future history that Anthony Boucher would praise as ‘a high-water mark in SF writing’, the moving saga of how robots and intelligent dogs are left to inherit the Earth. First conceived and written as global war was entering its final phase, James Gunn muses how ‘Simak attributed that – a choice of dogs, to his disillusionment with humanity during World War II’. The first story of the cycle appeared in the May 1944 ‘Astounding’. The magazine cover-image might show a bulbous red spaceship illustrating the now-forgotten “Latent Image” by George O Smith, but the more enduring off-the-beaten space-track Simak tale opens on page 136, with back-and-white line illustrations by A Williams.

‘THE MYTH OF MAN’ (by ‘Bounce’) 

The novel – ‘City’, that results is what genre historians term a ‘fix-up’, the original magazine stories tied together and given thematic continuity by the introduction of ‘Notes’, in which various doggish academics and experts – including ‘Bounce’, ‘Rover’ and ‘Tige’, are quoted as they give their scholarly opinions as to the veracity of the texts, and their interpretations of the strange ideas and concepts the stories embody. They debate whether human history is any more than ‘a sociological fable’?

The attention-grabbing blurb to the 1965 Four Square paperback edition sets out the first sequence – ‘City’. In the dog’s belief-system, this is their ‘Genesis’-text. The starting point of their creation myth. Although it contains neither dogs nor robots. ‘It started in 1990. Cheap atomic power was a reality. Hydroponic farming ensured enough to eat. So everywhere men left the cities, abandoning the ancient huddling places of the human race. At last, man was free. And left behind – in the dead and empty cities, man’s memories remained as symbols of the childhood of the race. The Golden Age had come at last after generations of war and toil.’ In their exodus they leave the teeming world of machines, because ‘he needed sun and soil and wind to remain a man.’ There’s a gentle nostalgia of old memories, old ways that survive even though ‘the city is an anachronism.’ The overgrown wilderness of empty streets has become a pastoral ‘big front yard’ where William ‘Gramp’ Stevens grumbles good-naturedly in a folksy style about the ‘dadburn’ kid. Sentimentally soft-core, but hugely affecting nevertheless, it enters what Simak himself calls ‘not only a physical environment, but psychological as well’. What remains of local government intends to torch-clearance the encroaching dereliction in which a stubborn knot of cantankerous old-timers stay on through habit or nostalgia. There’s a sense of snaggle-toothed rustic Americana as rugged individualist John J Webster stands up to the machinations of corrupt politicians.

The vanishing frontier is one of the great tropes of American culture, through elegiac movies and novels. A sense that when the ‘West was Won’, something was also lost. Something buried beneath the asphalt and concrete. In his repeated motif of ‘people who had backed down the scale of progress’, Simak is far from the only writer to introduce the theme into SF. Ray Bradbury also advanced into fictional futures with one eye fixed wistfully on a rapidly disappearing past. The futurisation of nostalgia was already there in Jack London’s “The Purple Plague” (June 1912), in which pandemic reduces the human population to isolated tribes in the vast renewed American wilderness, a theme replayed in the George R Stewart novel ‘Earth Abides’ (1949). Simak’s approach is more gradual. There’s no plague. Just a gradual detachment, first from the cities, then from Earth itself. Simak excels at recreating ‘a simple, pastoral life, akin to the historic days of the old American frontier with all the frontier’s compensations, none of its dangers,’ an effect amplified by affectionate hillbilly colloquialisms – ‘good eatin’ as you ever hooked a tooth into.’ It’s a regrown wilderness where the forests have become ‘a hushed place that one could believe had never heard a voice except the talk of wind in treetops and the tiny voices of the wild things that followed secret paths.’

It’s an American novel. Presumably the process of deserting cities for simpler lives is also occurring across Africa and Asia, although there’s no mention of it. Geneva becomes a location for a kind of global administration known as the World Committee, but there’s no sense of it being part of Europe. It’s the Webster family-dynasty that forms the connecting thread – ‘a device used to establish a link of continuity in a series of tales which otherwise are not too closely linked’ as a self-aware Simak comments through his ‘Notes’. As technology develops and populations move off-world, there’s compensatory warmth to the core message of the values of the old, and old-fashioned values. Even the clunky 1950’s technology of televisors with dials and toggles, only enforces its retro-flavoured musings. Mischievously, the location for the Webster’s family-home is chosen because it has a trout-stream. Simak also lists fishing as one of his own favoured pastimes.

Dogs, like cats, do not have opposable thumbs. So how are they able to sustain a civilisation? They have self-replicating robots to perform the tasks they’re incapable of. But who created the first robot? The dogs debate the issue. “Huddling Place” is leisurely prose that takes its time. Savouring the melancholia of its passing. The story has now traced the Webster family line five-generations to Jerome A Webster in 2117. To a man locked in a ‘decadence, a strangely beautiful – and deadly decadence.’ The first robot appears – Jenkins, ‘the real hero of the legend’. He is to become ‘an extension of man’s influence beyond the day of man’s disappearance.’ There are also Martians. Jerome’s son is leaving for Mars. While Jerome is prepared, against his most agoraphobic fears, to journey there to perform surgery that might save the life of Martian philosopher, Juwain. Until Jenkins, in a sleight of robotic hand, vetoes the trip.

In “Census” – the third tale, the world is becoming stranger, more magical. The story is a conversational mood-piece, even referred to as a ‘legend’, as it becomes mythic. As the human outward urge moves beyond Mars towards Alpha Centauri, there’s the human mutation of wild ‘jackpine’ ridge-runners, Nathaniel – the first talking dog who is the result of experimental evolutionary-acceleration, and an ant-colony which has been nudged into its own industrial revolution with smoking chimney-stacks and wheeled carts. The narrative commentary is provided by Richard Grant, a census-taking enumerator who interviews Thomas Webster and Jenkins, his robot butler. Then he also encounters Joe, the telepathic loner with intuitive gifts, who alters the lifecycle of the ant-colony for reasons of little more than amused curiosity.


“Desertion” leaps from cosy backwoodsmen into the roaring maelstrom of Jupiter. Five men have ventured out of the pressurised domes, never to return. They experience Jupiter – not in human form, for that would be impossible, but by being transformed into Lopers, a native species based on ammonia and hydrogen, not water and oxygen. Simak later revisits the idea in ‘Way Station’ (1963), in which his Andromedans reason that ‘if you cannot colonise a planet in your present shape, why, then you change your shape. You make yourself into the sort of being that can live upon the planet… if you need to be a worm, then you become a worm – or an insect or a shellfish or whatever it may take.’ Strangely, Kent Fowler and his dog Towser are equalised as they both transform into Lopers to acclimatise to Jupiter. A poisonous nightmare to terrestrials, through their newly acquired senses the gas giant is transfigured into a marvellous world of limitless wonders. The five missing men failed to return because they had no desire to resume cramped limited human perceptions. ‘Man was engaged in a mad scramble for power and knowledge, but nowhere is there any hint of what he meant to do with it once he had attained it.’ On Jupiter, all desire is satisfied.

“Paradise” – the fifth tale, brings these diverse earlier strands together. There is Jupiter, for Fowler has resumed human form after living as a Loper for five years. He returns to Earth spreading his message that Jupiter is paradise. There is the latest Webster, the ‘legendary family that had left a meteoric trail across centuries of time.’ Tyler Webster is chairman of the World Committee in Geneva. He considers the lure of Jupiter to be a ‘dangerous disease’, one that could lead to a mass migration from Earth. He faces the moral equation, should he kill Fowler to preserve humanity to fulfil its own destiny, but by doing so, reintroduce murder to a pacified world? There are also talking dogs who are used as a monitoring police force to keep telepathic human mutants under observation. The robot Jenkins who, ‘despite his metal hide, was a Webster too’. Plus the long-lived mutant Joe, who is in possession of the stolen Juwain philosophy. And a kaleidoscope capable of transmitting its message.

It’s a pivotal tale. For the sixth one – “Hobbies”, concerns its effects. The mass migration to Jupiter has happened, leaving barely five-thousand humans on Earth to live decadent pointless lives in Geneva, ‘the last city in the world’. With limitless resources and robots to attend their every whim, there’s an elegiac feel to its leisurely measured prose. ‘History had run its course and ended.’ Jon Webster briefly returns to the abandoned family home to find it overrun with talking dogs. The dogs are becoming more central, moving into the Webster house where Jenkins – their ‘father-confessor’, patiently mentors them. Jon considers assuming a guiding role in the accelerating canine evolution, but decides against it. Better to exert no influence. Leave them to discover their own truth. He returns to Geneva where he activates an ancient defence screen, making the city ‘a closed dome of nothingness’. Then he joins many of his fellows by entering an induced suspended animation dream-state that will last for eternity.

The seventh tale is named “Aesop”, in recognition of the ancient writer of fables who also devised cunning and sometimes devious talking animals. Jenkins is now a seven-thousand-year-old robot who contentedly rocks in a rocking chair. All creatures have speech, and debate the ethics of not killing. The few hundred humans left outside the sealed city are all known as ‘websters’, the remnants of an ‘all-but-vanished race’ who live in houses the Dogs have built for them. They are just one animal species among many. With no human masters, the ‘wild robots’ are developing star-travel. The Mutants have gone, through a ‘Big Front Yard’ dimensional portal in an act as simple as stepping through a door into another world. While, following the path of Ebenezer whose intuitive dog-sense sniffed out ‘cobblies’, the Dogs develop the theme of Cobbly-worlds, parallel Earths that anticipate Stephen Baxter and Terry Pratchett’s ‘Long Earths’ novel-series. But all is not well, as Simak skilfully weaves the ‘who killed cock robin’ rhyme into the narrative. Peter the Webster reinvents the bow-and-arrow, and inadvertently brings violent death back to the idyllic ‘Brotherhood of Beasts’, with wolf Lupus as the luring voice of temptation. A new conundrum for ageing Jenkins to resolve. So the troublesome humans are relocated to one of the near-identical Cobbly Earths.

‘City’ is without doubt one of the strangest and most beguiling future’s ever conjectured by the mind of Science Fiction. With humans scattered to the four winds of eternity, and the Earth now the realm of talking dogs and logical robots. It’s only in the final tale – “The Simple Way”, that the ants reappear. The result of mutant-Joe’s meddling, their parallel evolution has continued across the twelve-thousand years that have since elapsed. Now they use a kind of mini-robotic near nano-technology to infiltrate and recruit robots to their vast ‘Building’ project which threatens to engulf the entire world. Jenkin’s last conundrum, similar to the one faced by Tyler Webster in “Paradise”, is to ethically balance the ends with the means. The Webster solution is to exterminate the ants. But there can be no killing. ‘Better that one should lose a world than go back to killing.’ The Earth, it seems, will be abandoned to the ants. For Jenkins and his Dogs, the future will lie on the other Earths they’ve linked into.


Simak’s philosophical fantasies share a continuity of themes. The novelette “The Big Front Yard” is set in the rural Midwestern village of Willow Bend where Hiram Taine finds an infiltration of peculiar rat-like creatures repairing the broken things in his fix-it shop, transforming and upgrading his home into a kind of impervious galactic portal. Like the Webster home, Taine’s has been a family property for a hundred years. The ‘Yard’ of the title is used in its American sense, and would work less effectively as the British ‘Big Front Garden’! Now, by merely stepping through his door Taine finds himself on a desert planet, then a Gothic storm-planet. It’s a new range of ‘Cobbly’ worlds that, in a curious cross-genre parallel, is the SF techno-variant of stepping through the wardrobe into Narnia. The Simak equation, the moral of his fable is always that xenophobia is the chief barrier to human happiness. ‘No man of Earth ever again could be called a foreigner with alien life next door – literally next door.’ Taine’s first instinct is to barter with the aliens – ‘his ever-present business sense rising to the fore.’ Once a mutually advantageous trade in ‘Dickering’ is established everything else will fall into place. It’s not difficult to draw parallels with his deservedly acclaimed later novel, ‘Way Station’ (1963). After all, this was ‘more, Taine thought, than the linking of mere worlds. It would be, as well, the linking of the peoples of those worlds.’

The extraterrestrial connectivity in ‘Way Station’ (originally serialised in the June and August 1963 issues of ‘Galaxy’), occurs within the same distinctive pastoral backwoods setting, ascending into lush passages of clear closely-observed beauty. A tranquillity unique within the SF genre. ‘This was the Earth, he thought – a planet made for Man. But not for Man alone, for it was as well a planet for the fox and owl and weasel, for the snake, the katydid, the fish, for all the other teeming life that filled the air and earth and water.’ Just as it is for the raccoon, the squirrel, and the devious wolf of ‘City’. This ‘gentleness of spirit and its lack of animosity’ is the zone James Gunn defines as ‘The Simak Reservation’. Although Enoch Wallace is the novel’s central character, apart from a brief single-page preface sequence establishing his presence in 1861, fighting for old Abe Lincoln during the Civil War, he is only seen through the perspective of surveillance reports for the following four chapters. His life anomalies have come to the attention of an agent of the National Academy who charts the contours of his impossible life.

 Born in 1840 he lives within, but apart from, an isolated rural community. ‘No-one fears him, I am sure of that. He’s been around too long for anyone to fear him. Too familiar. He’s a fixture of the land, like a tree or boulder.’ As agent Lewis furtively stalks his home he sees it ‘bathed in that light, the house was somehow unearthly, as if, indeed, it might be set apart as a very special thing. And then the light, if it ever had been there, was gone and the house shared the common sunlight of the fields and woods.’ It is as if the house had ‘planted itself upon the ridgetop, and meant to stay forever.’ A distant relative, not only of Hiram Taine’s star-portal home and the Webster house, but of William Hope Hodgson’s ‘The House On The Borderland’ (1908) too. Proofed even against thermonuclear war, it will survive for an eternity. Like Wallace himself, it is supernaturally preserved against time, ‘an anachronism, something living from another age.’

 This longevity is because ‘the stars had reached out across vast gulfs of space and put their finger on him.’ It’s the side-effect of an agreement made, following the hospitality he extends to an alien ‘scout’ he calls Ulysses – named for the Union General Ulysses S Grant, not the Homeric hero, to have his home used as a ‘way station’ along the web of a ‘galactic confraternity of worlds’, a stopping-off place and switch-point for species commuting ‘faster than a wink’ between the community of star systems. They are diverse in form, but each encounter is friendly. There are no evil aliens, no aggressors or despotic empires. It is Simak’s vision of the harmony of the universe that sets it apart from contemporary works by other writers.

 Enoch Wallace communes with the ‘shadow people’, ghosts from his past, and with the mailman. The only other human Wallace interacts with is the childlike deaf-mute Lucy Fisher, ‘a creature of the woods and hills’ who also inhabits her own separate inner world, and might even possess healing powers. ‘She can fix a butterfly.’ She’s the equivalent of slow-witted Beasly in “The Big Front Yard”, who has the ‘clairvoyance’ to telepath with the aliens, as well as with Towser, Hiram’s dog. Here, there is ordinariness, touched by the hint of extraterrestrial magic. Characters pull pipe and pouch from their pockets, slowly fill the pipe, then pull serenely. Unhurried.

 But unwanted change is in the air. There are the hidden watchers observing Enoch, who abduct the Hazer body, the alien who died and was buried in Wallace’s family plot. The journal ‘Nature’ enquires politely how it is possible that he has subscribed for more than eighty years. And charts devised by the statistical-mathematicians of Mizar calculate that Earth’s political instability will inexorably result in ‘a holocaust of nuclear destruction.’ There’s also growing galactic imbalance due to the missing Talisman, a psychic tool that creates inter-species harmony. Enoch Wallace is by now a ‘cultural half-breed’ caught between his loyalty to an Earth denied membership of the galactic family due its warlike ways, and his new alien friends who threaten to pull out of the system. Yet the novel is more meditative inner dialogue than it is fast-action. His dilemma is resolved when Lucy’s powers make her the powerful conduit of the Talisman’s energies, opening up Earth to the galaxy. Symbolically, in a last gesture, Enoch throws his rifle from the high headland into the river. There is no further need for weaponry.

Clifford D Simak died 25 April 1988, leaving five decades of highly individual fiction. Or, as he recalls, the work of ‘not one man alone, but the several men that I have been… and the trouble is that I cannot write about these several men because, after all, they are one man – myself.’ There were other Simak robot tales. The quirkily amusing “How-2”, first appeared in the November 1954 issue of ‘Galaxy’, in which Gordon Knight sends off for a build-your-own ‘half-mechanical half-biological’ dog, but instead receives a DIY self-replicating robot called Albert – ‘a jack of all trades, intelligent, obedient, no time off, no overtime, on the job twenty-four hours a day, never tired, no need for rest or sleep, do any work you wish.’ Albert amiably builds a family-team of replicant assistants to transform Knight’s property. When the company sues, Albert simply assembles a team of lawyer-robots that not only out-argue the prosecution but establish a case for self-determining robot-rights. Knight surrenders to the inevitability that his every whim will now be catered for, relieving him of every need for motivation or initiative.

There’s “A Death In The House” (‘Galaxy’ October 1959) in which another of Simak’s unkempt loners – Mose Abrams, assists another unappealing alien – a locomoting-plant creature, to repair its bird-cage spacecraft and return home, summoning up all the emotional tsunami of Steven Spielberg’s ‘E.T.’ (1982). And even the ‘City’ cycle itself was not entirely over. There was to be a ninth tale, “Epilog” which appears in ‘Astounding: John W Campbell Memorial Anthology’ (1973) edited by Harry Harrison. A mythology he resumed after a twenty-two-year break, with some misgivings – ‘over the years a writer’s perspectives and viewpoints shift, different values evolve and techniques change.’ But, prodded by a sense of debt to the editor who had championed and made his experimental forays from the SF-mainstream possible, he picks up the cycle where he’d left off. Now Jenkins’ final dilemma has resolved itself. He is alone in the Webster house, which is surrounded by the dead remnants of the Ant Building. As a spaceship arrives to take him to refuge on a distant robot colony-world he smashes through the walls of the ant-structure and sees recurring sculptures that arc back to Joe in the third tale, in which the mutant petulantly kicked down the ant-architecture his meddlesome intervention had enabled. Even though the human race has long since ceased, its bitter memory remains. ‘A breed of men who carried dreams within their skulls, and cruelty in their hands…’

‘To be truly civilised, there must be something 
far more subtle than the gadget or the thought…’ 

 ‘CITY’ (‘Astounding Science Fiction’, May 1944) reprints include in ‘The Astounding-Analog Reader Vol.1’ edited by Harry Harrison and Brian Aldiss (Doubleday, 1972)

HUDDLING PLACE’ (‘Astounding Science Fiction’, July 1944) also in ‘The Science Fiction Hall Of Fame, Volume One’ edited by Robert Silverberg (Doubleday, 1970), and ‘Decade The 1940’s’ edited by Brian W Aldiss and Harry Harrison (Macmillan, 1975)

CENSUS’ (‘Astounding Science Fiction’, September 1944)

DESERTION’ (published as by ‘Clifford Simak’, ‘Astounding Science Fiction’, November 1944) also in ‘Big Book Of Science Fiction’ edited by Groff Conklin (Crown Publishers, 1950), and ‘Beyond Tomorrow’ edited by Damon Knight (Harper & Row, 1965). Also ‘The Road To Science Fiction 3: From Heinlein To Here’ edited by James Gunn (Mentor/ New American Library, 1979)

PARADISE’ (‘Astounding Science Fiction’, June 1946)

HOBBIES’ (‘Astounding Science Fiction’, November 1946)

AESOP’ (‘Astounding Science Fiction’, December 1947)

THE SIMPLE WAY’ (first published as ‘The Trouble With Ants’ in ’Fantastic Adventures’, January 1951) and ‘Fantastic’ (July 1966)

 ‘EPILOG’ (‘Astounding: John W Campbell Memorial Anthology’, November 1973) edited by Harry Harrison from Random House, then integrated into new edition of ‘City’ in December 1983 from Ace, republished by Old Earth Books (September 2004)

CITY’ (Gnome Press, 1952) collected volume with Frank Kelly Freas cover-art, then 1954 (Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 9/6d), March 1958 (Ace Books) with cover-art by Ed Valigursky, a Four Square paperback edition (1965), and June 1971 (Sphere) with Eddie Jones art.

Reviewed by Kenneth F Slater who writes ‘The Dogs, imbued with the high ideals of man’s culture which man himself never managed to bring to fruition, are almost defeated by the ‘websters’, who re-invent the bow and arrow, and by the ‘cobblies’ – the things from the worlds next door. Until Jenkins solves both problems by taking the ‘websters’ into the world of the cobblies, thus ridding the dogs of their dragging heritage and releasing on the cobblies the most destructive of life forms. Each incidental story is a gem, and the whole, connected by the observations of the ‘Dog’ who records these ‘myths’, forms a book which is the crown of Simak’s twenty-plus years of SF writing’ (‘Nebula no.8’, April 1954).

‘Authentic no.44’ (April 1954) adds ‘You’ve probably never read anything quite like ‘City’ – which statement should make you all agog; so many books these days are painfully similar. It is a series of stories that range in time from not too long after now to millions of years into the future; and in the book they are treated as all being incredibly old, legends in fact. In the book the stories are linked by scholarly comments by a literary historian, who summarises the reasons for and against the legends. The interesting point about this is that the historian is – a dog!... the whole thing is done with the utmost credibility. Anyone who doesn’t read this book is no Science Fiction fan!’

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