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Old 08-16-2018, 10:22 AM   #16
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The stories really are classic mid-20th-century. The aircars are right out of Popular Mechanics, likewise the robots. What I find odd is that TV doesn't seem to appear in the early story - just radio.
And yet, we have the video-phone "televisers." It's interesting in early sci-fi that when reference is made to broadcasting images in this way, it is almost always for communication and not entertainment. I noticed it in HG Wells' "The Crystal Egg", which I also read recently.
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Old 08-16-2018, 05:16 PM   #17
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The atomic-powered personal aircars are still not there. However, From the radio era on, haven't we been retreating into smaller and smaller community units? I know quite a few people who live in suburban houses by themselves. If boomers haven't physically jettisoned the city completely, they certainly have left it mentally in many cases

I have to question Simak's science - it's more like fantasy. Although DNA hadn't been scientifically established, Simak's biology seems to be out of Cuvier.
The City vs Individual theme develops as the sequence continues. The mutants are self-contained units. Webster is obsessed with racial identity in “Paradise”. The “cobbly worlds” idea rings another variation. Without trying to give away too much, the way the Websters finally link into a world dominated by pure racial identity is quite ironic.

I would certainly agree that Simak represents the “soft” area of science fiction. We see it too in Sturgeon and Bradbury. Personally, I think that Simak’s sequence in City is far more coherent than the latter’s The Martian Chronicles. However, this is owing to thematic development particularly the Juwain Philosophy—not to any scientific extrapolation.

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Old 08-16-2018, 09:57 PM   #18
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The atomic-powered personal aircars are still not there. However, From the radio era on, haven't we been retreating into smaller and smaller community units? I know quite a few people who live in suburban houses by themselves. If boomers haven't physically jettisoned the city completely, they certainly have left it mentally in many cases.

The stories really are classic mid-20th-century. The aircars are right out of Popular Mechanics, likewise the robots. What I find odd is that TV doesn't seem to appear in the early story - just radio.

I have to question Simak's science - it's more like fantasy. Although DNA hadn't been scientifically established, Simak's biology seems to be out of Cuvier.
That's how I felt when I read it too, people retreating into homes, they don't have to go out much if they chose not too. One of the more revealing points was at the end of the second tale. In Webster's reluctance to leave, he left the decision making open to someone else, and that surprised him.

I also think it reads more like fantasy, especially going in to the third tale.
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Old 08-20-2018, 05:24 PM   #19
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The City vs Individual theme develops as the sequence continues. The mutants are self-contained units. Webster is obsessed with racial identity in “Paradise”. The “cobbly worlds” idea rings another variation. Without trying to give away too much, the way the Websters finally link into a world dominated by pure racial identity is quite ironic.

I would certainly agree that Simak represents the “soft” area of science fiction. We see it too in Sturgeon and Bradbury. Personally, I think that Simak’s sequence in City is far more coherent than the latter’s The Martian Chronicles. However, this is owing to thematic development particularly the Juwain Philosophy—not to any scientific extrapolation.
Great description, Thematic development.
I think the Juwain Philosophy is something that the humans are not prepared for.
I'm up to tale 5 and it really made me wonder why the human explorers wanted to stay on Jupiter and not return. It seemed that once on Jupiter they had a very different experience. So much so that they needed to change physically to adapt.
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Old 08-26-2018, 08:08 PM   #20
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Read the 7th tale, and it's starting to come together for me. The different experiences from Man, Dog, Mutants, Robots, and all the other creatures great & small.

One thing that really bugged me was how Jon Webster could have forgotten his son ? I guess the author wanted to show just how self absorbed man became. I do agree we are headed down that virtual road.

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Old 08-26-2018, 08:26 PM   #21
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I finished the 7th tale today too. I like how it is following the family of W(w)ebsters though the centuries.
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Old 08-26-2018, 09:14 PM   #22
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I first read Huddling Place and Desertion many many years ago. I read quite a bit of Simak when much younger but was not aware that these stories had been collected into one volume. On reading these stories I was struck just how relevant some of the themes remain. This is quite a common reaction for me when reading good science fiction from previous eras. The technological and cultural changes in a story may be wrong in their specifics but retain a broader relevance. Everyday atomics? Not yet and maybe not ever. A hydroponic revolution replacing farms? No. But both of these were not bad guesses at the time, and give an opportunity to consider the effects of plentiful and cheap energy (including easy and cheap transport) in the one case and plentiful space on the other. Technologies that we have and are developing partially achieve and offer the promise of both. And of course the stories were written before our knowledge of DNA, so genetic engineering and its awesome potential escaped extensive consideration. However, it was nevertheless touched upon with the Dogs, where surgery and education improbably achieved what is beyond our technology even now. Perhaps Simak would be welcome in today's radical animal rights movements as he seems to take the view in these stores that animals generally are intelligent beings unable to communicate with us or express their intelligence.

Change is of course a major and a constant theme, and little could be more relevant today. And people deal with it overall very poorly. When there is no longer a need to huddle together those who can split into family "tribes" on large areas of land, and establish and cling to traditions. I wonder, though, what he would make of today's obsession with the internet and social media. Even in Simak's day I gather many young people growing up in the country fled to the cities. People are social creatures and seek each other out for many reasons.

I loved Desertion when I read it as a child and still loved it. I particularly enjoyed the idea of perspectives. To us Jupiter was the most inhospitable environment imaginable, a hellhole where our survival time if exposed unprotected was as close to zero as possible. But to the lopers the howling gale was a mild pleasant breeze and the planet a paradise. Also interesting is the idea of being limited by our bodies. The attraction of Jupiter and the lopers was not only the idea of more but the promise of meaning. The promise of thinking better. Of better senses and better understanding. The idea was even advanced that perhaps our bodies lacked senses necessary to greater understanding of our existence.

That's enough for the moment. What I have always loved and valued about good Science Fiction, and perhaps the major reason I continue to read it as an adult is that it is such a wonderful tool for examining ideas and making one think. Sometimes the ideas are sufficient to turn even average writing into something great.
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Old 08-26-2018, 10:44 PM   #23
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I have finished all eight stories (plus the ninth one). I'll look to maybe comment more after the recommended 30 August.

I know that what people perceive as what is science fiction and what is fantasy is a personal interpretation, however, for me, this book was heavily on the fantasy side. Perhaps because I have a science based background I saw nothing in the stories that was more than shallow references to there being creatures on another planet, transformations from one species to another (e.g. man to lopers), somehow dogs taught to speak and all animals able to chat between species, etc.

To me none of this is not to be found in pure fantasy (but may not have been so in the mid 1940s when the stories were written). I also don't know whether the International Fantasy Award in the 1950s was based on science fiction or fantasy (or a mix of both), nor the same for the Hugo one of the stories won (if I recall correctly).

When I was about a third of the way into the book I started thinking that the storyline would make a good children's fantasy with all its talking animals and robots chatting among themselves. I later became convinced when reading the likes of Archie the raccoon riding on the shoulder of Jenkins the robot, Fatso the squirrel sitting on Jenkins shoulder, etc. What kid does not like talking animals that sit and ride on ones shoulder ? So, for me, the book tended to feel like it being a children's fantasy dressed up with adult reading level sentences.

After exploring Simak's background to the limited extent I could (mainly from Wikipedia, etc., and Moskowitz's Seekers of Tomorrow which has a brief chapter on him and was the only book type reference saying more than a passing mention that I had to hand) I felt that there was quite a bit of propaganda in the book influenced by his chosen ideologies. I also felt that, in the main, the prose did not strike me as carefully crafted; and one of the stories I found a bit tiresome (the sixth I think it was). Both of these, to me, had a "journalist" feel about them; stories knocked out quickly on a typewriter, and as much added into the story as possible to support the messages (propaganda).

That all said I enjoyed the book and found it interesting, but am not sure that I will try any of his others, especially as City seems to be regarded as his best.
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Old 08-26-2018, 11:15 PM   #24
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When I was about a third of the way into the book I started thinking that the storyline would make a good children's fantasy with all its talking animals and robots chatting among themselves. I later became convinced when reading the likes of Archie the raccoon riding on the shoulder of Jenkins the robot, Fatso the squirrel sitting on Jenkins shoulder, etc. What kid does not like talking animals that sit and ride on ones shoulder ? So, for me, the book tended to feel like it being a children's fantasy dressed up with adult reading level sentences.
Those books would be The Wild Robot series by Peter Brown! It's been on my radar as something that looks like a fun children's read.
https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/...the-wild-robot
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Old 08-26-2018, 11:58 PM   #25
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Here is a website which has details on the International Fantasy Awards. You can see all winners in the 1950s and you can also see the list of all nominees too.

http://www.sfadb.com/International_Fantasy_Awards
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Old 08-27-2018, 12:43 AM   #26
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Those books would be The Wild Robot series by Peter Brown! It's been on my radar as something that looks like a fun children's read.
https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/...the-wild-robot
Thanks, didn't know those ones .

I see that within them lies the secret of how the different animals are able to talk to each other:

Spoiler:
The robot was beginning to understand the birds.
But she was also beginning to understand the porcupines and the salamanders and the beetles. She discovered that all the different animals shared one common language; they just spoke the language in different ways. You might say each species spoke with its own unique accent.
When Roz first listened to the chickadees, their songs had sounded like “TWEEE-tweedle! TWEEE-tweedle!” But now when the chickadees sang, Roz heard “Oh, what a lovely day it is! Oh, what a lovely day it is!”


I am off to practice with the cats .

Regarding awards, the International Fantasy link I see summarizes other awards he won as well; quite a collection of them.
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Old 08-27-2018, 08:53 AM   #27
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I have finished all eight stories (plus the ninth one). I'll look to maybe comment more after the recommended 30 August.

I know that what people perceive as what is science fiction and what is fantasy is a personal interpretation, however, for me, this book was heavily on the fantasy side. Perhaps because I have a science based background I saw nothing in the stories that was more than shallow references to there being creatures on another planet, transformations from one species to another (e.g. man to lopers), somehow dogs taught to speak and all animals able to chat between species, etc.
I am often frustrated by the combination of fantasy and science fiction into a single category virtually everywhere. Unfortunately I've been unable to formulate any satisfactory objective criteria for distinguishing them. Abandoning objectivity even "I can't define it but I know it when I see it" is not up to the task. It may be possible to objectively distinguish so-called hard science fiction at one extreme from the other extreme of pure fantasy devoid of any element of scientific speculation, but it would be I think a most unsatisfactory division. This is because there is such a significant degree of overlap. Even hard science fiction usually involves some degree of what could be called fantasy when it seeks to build on existing science to project future developments which may or may not occur.

I agree with you that these stories have many elements of fantasy. Even a little mysticism with a whole new mysterious philosophy. The fantastic elements seem to increase as the book progresses. The animal elements in particular are pretty well pure fantasy, having scant scientific basis when the stories were written. Ironically, some but not all of the animal elements if incorporated in a more recently written piece would now have a scientific basis in genetics. However, the purpose of the animals, the mutants (and to some extent the robots) in the stories is tied up in the importance of a different perspective. Consider the modern emphasis on diversity in this light. The mutants could understand and recreate Juwain's new philosophy from his notes where humans could not. But they had their own perspective and did not share human goals, simply saying they could use it for their own purposes, which they later did. The Census taker would have done better to have shown Juwain's notes to the Dog when he had the chance, since the Dog's had a different perspective but seemed to share human goals more closely than the mutants.

I look forward to reading your further comments after 30 August.

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Old 08-27-2018, 12:24 PM   #28
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I've decided that the most useful (to me) way to distinguish between fantasy and science fiction is by looking at the in-universe explanation. If the in-universe explanation involves SCIENCE however implausible and the results are reproducible by anyone who knows enough and has the appropriate tools then it's science fiction. If the in-universe explanation involves MAGIC, the supernatural, the gods and/or some sort of special power(s) given to a very few people for no explicable reason then it's fantasy. These categories are not exclusive so a story can be both science fiction and fantasy.

So I consider City science fiction, perhaps of butter consistency but science fiction nonetheless. However I can understand why someone would have trouble with that classification.

My bugbear is humans who just happen to have inborn psychic powers, I dislike labeling stories containing them as science fiction. If I consider them to be fantasy assumed to be science then I can use my fantasy googles and enjoy the story (assuming it's an otherwise good story).
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Old 08-28-2018, 12:29 PM   #29
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Delete.

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Old 08-28-2018, 12:34 PM   #30
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When I first read City many decades ago, the story that impressed me most was “Desertion” and the one I liked least was “Huddling Place”. I now feel that, while “Desertion” is a good tale and introduces the Jupiter transcendence theme, there are many others that are more sensitive and better written. “Huddling Place” is more sophisticated and also introduces the Juwain Philosophy—and Juwain himself—perhaps the most significant unifying element in the series of stories. Perhaps its weakness lies in the importance of Jenkins who really causes the disaster, rather than Webster who seems on the verge of overcoming his weakness. Jenkins later becomes a figure with an ethical nature and is thus rather similar to Asimov’s R. Daneel Olivaw who also guides his chosen race.

It does strike me that the root of this story is that the human race is doomed to go nowhere—at least as human beings. Most become Lopers on Jupiter; the mutants retire to strange towers opening on the extra-dimensioal, and even the humans in “Aesop” go into some strange vague future. Thus, the enormous emphasis that the Websters put on racial survival becomes ironic. By sealing the remainder of humanity within Geneva, Jon Webster leaves the world—he thinks—to the dogs. In fact the intelligent ants created by the mutant Joe inherit the Earth.

When I nominated this book, I stated that I was nominating the original volume that won the prize. The final story “Epilog” was written much later as a tribute to John W. Cambell.

There is no doubt but that Simak had doubts about the wisdom of writing another story as the original was complete in itself. He is quite aware that in 1971 he “was a different writer than the younger man who had fashioned the tales” and his feelings were mixed. He writes:

“ ‘Epilog,’ I think, turned out all right. However, I can’t decide wheter or not I’m happy to see it included with the others, if for no other reason than completeness. I can understand an editor’s wish to add it to this new edition. For myself, there is a certain note of finality and sadness in the story that I would have been willing not to touch upon.”

I think that Simak’s instincts were right. I would rather not have that story. City is not a fairy-tale. The demise of the ants and the happy ending for Jenkins is an anticlimax.

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