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Old 08-28-2018, 01:56 PM   #31
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Old 08-28-2018, 09:57 PM   #32
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Originally Posted by ekbell View Post
...

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.
...
How nicely put, as opposed to hard science fiction. That was my feeling too.
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Old 08-28-2018, 10:45 PM   #33
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Ye'all are having me convince myself that The Wonderful World of Oz is science fiction too .

Many similarities to City; has a robot (the tinman who can talk), animals that can talk (and a man made out of straw that can talk too), mutants (the munchkins), travel over long distances with no description beyond one non-scientific word as to the method (cyclone is the word in one, and rocket is the word in the other), transformation marvels (humans to lopers in one, and heart and brain transplants into humanoids in the other), a great wizard (Oz in one, Juwain in the other), and I am sure there are more.

In fact it would seem that I am now convincing myself that Oz is even richer science fiction than City is as it has witches too (plenty of witches in science fiction).

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Old 08-29-2018, 10:18 AM   #34
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Originally Posted by Bookworm_Girl View Post
I finished the 7th tale today too. I like how it is following the family of W(w)ebsters though the centuries.
I felt like the Webster Family was the anchor that connected the tales, especially since so much time had progressed from one tale to the next, and so much had changed.
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Old 08-29-2018, 10:18 AM   #35
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Only just cience fiction, not fantasy because there are no incantations,rings of power or arms clothed in white samite involved.
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Old 08-29-2018, 10:29 AM   #36
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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.
A very good point, it made me think of the 1990's when the commercials for the" Not yet seen, information highway " A little girl would tell us it was coming !" It was the internet of course, and one thought of it as informative. Not so much as entertainment. At least not then.
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Old 08-31-2018, 02:28 PM   #37
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There is also the term “Science Fantasy” described in the Encyclopedia of Science Fiction thus:


“In the Terminology of sf readers, and more especially publishers, this term has never been clearly defined, although it was the title of a well known UK magazine 1950-1966 (see Science Fantasy), which was also the period when the term was most in general use. More recently it has been partially superseded by the terms Sword and Sorcery and Heroic Fantasy, but it differs from these two categories in that Science Fantasy does not necessarily contain Magic, Gods and Demons, Heroes, Mythology or Supernatural Creatures, though these may be present, often in a quasirationalized form. Science Fantasy is normally considered a . . . genre blending elements of sf and fantasy; it is usually colourful and often bizarre, sometimes with elements of Horror although never centrally in the horror genre. Certain sf themes are especially common in Science Fantasy – Parallel Worlds, other Dimensions, ESP, Monsters, Psi Powers and Supermen – but no single one of these ingredients is essential. Many Science Fantasies are also Planetary Romances (many of the books so described in this volume can be regarded as Science Fantasy). . . .”

Personally, I regard City as science fiction. Certainly it does not have the fantasy atmosphere of something written by Edgar Rice Burroughs, Robert Howard or A. Merrit. But it does use some of the themes linked to science fantasy as mentioned above.

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Old 09-01-2018, 02:20 PM   #38
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I read this in what turned out to be a very unique way. In general I'm not a fan of spoilers in book 'introductions' and such that give it all away. So when I began reading, I went straight to the first tale to be greeted by 'notes' on the first tale and then saw in the table of contents that each tale had a notes section. Since I bought the version with extra commentary, I assumed these were notes by the actual editor and since they were before each tale I didn't want them to spoil what I was about to read, so I skipped all the notes and only read the tales. After I finished the tales I went back and read the introduction by the actual editor, then the introduction that turned out to actually be part of the book and finally the 'notes' on each tale. They certainly added a very different and more whimsical feel to the entire thing!

As I read I was reminded of various other stories (most of which came after). Fantasyfan already mentioned The Martian Chronicles that we read for the lit club, and another one is Cloud Atlas, which we read for the general book club here some years ago. Both it and City are a series of stories spanning a long amount of time and end up with man eventually (d?)evolving to a more primitive state. Another is Watership Down with an animal species forming a more sophisticated yet still naturalistic society. Another is the cartoon Up with dogs learning to talk with the help of man, and I wonder if whoever wrote Up was inspired by City. Yet another cartoon is Wall-E, in which man abandons earth and retreats to an entirely pleasurable existence, which is sort of a mash-up of the Genevans only worrying about pleasure and most of the others abandoning earth for Jupiter, and of course both stories have robots.

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Old 09-01-2018, 09:11 PM   #39
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...so I skipped all the notes and only read the tales...
I found the notes didn't add much for me; after reading your post I wonder if I would have got more from the book if I had just omitted reading them?
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Old 09-01-2018, 09:22 PM   #40
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My process was to read the notes, read the story and then go back and re-read the notes. When I read the story, I couldn't remember all that was in the notes. Thus I found it was better to revisit them after the story, and they had more meaning.
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Old 09-02-2018, 08:00 AM   #41
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I'm going to mention one theme which I touched upon in my earlier posts which these days is very politically charged. Diversity. Its necessity but also its limits. Of course diversity in the book is much wider than a mere diversity of races, though humanity as a whole is one of a number of sentient races considered in the book. The diversity that is important in the book is the diversity of viewpoints, of ways of thinking. This is most immediately apparent in the Juwain philosophy. Juwain is an extraordinary individual of the sketchily drawn Martian race. Despite his notes, neither humans nor the remaining Martians are able to reconstruct his philosophy. Yet it is understood effortlessly by the first mutant it is presented to. The book largely regards humanity as failures incapable of real understanding. In Huddling Place Webster, adventurous in his youth, develops extreme agoraphobia with age. To some extent this is a metaphor for the whole human race. The mutants who had a sufficiently different understanding to comprehend Juwain's notes had ceased to be human and no longer shared humanity's goals. On the other hand humanity had recognised that its own viewpoint was deficient, both to follow Juwain's reasoning and to do who knows what else. They hoped to overcome these limitations by re-integrating or at least co-operating with the mutants, but the mutants had now diverged so far from humanity they did not share its goals. The Dogs were another effort to make up for humanity's limitations in thinking and understanding. The mutated Ants offered a truly alien perspective if in fact they had a perspective at all, but one too alien for humanity to ever understand. They bring to mind Demosthenes Hierarchy of Foreignness in Orson Scott Card's Speaker for the Dead, which would definitely characterise them as Varelse, So diversity is good up to a point but has its limits. The only real ways to overcome those limits the book offers for humans are either to become something else, or to live through our own "creations" who we hope will be able to succeed where we cannot. Jupiter and the Loper's is an example of the former, the dogs and the robots and perhaps even the mutants of the latter. It seems the best humanity can do is get out of the way, for better or worse. It seems that the Dog Society rejected committing genocide on the ants, or would have had Jenkins saw fit to even present it to them. Or, despite their beliefs, did Jenkin's fail to present this solution to them because he feared they may be too human-like after all?
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Old 09-03-2018, 05:18 PM   #42
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Fantastic post, Daryl! Your approach really ties the segments of the book together beautifully and creates a compelling thematic significance.
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Old 09-04-2018, 02:25 AM   #43
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As I said earlier I quite liked the book but there was a lot I found awkward about it. How to regard the book in its reading I could only reflect on after finishing it, the outcome of which I will mention at the end of this lengthy ramble of mine (for those who get that far ).

I have mentioned that the storyline, for me, would make the basis of a good children's story. Some of the following may give some inkling as to why I feel that way. I have also mentioned that the prose gave me the sense of having the trappings of a news journalist's writing (Simak worked as a newspaper journalist, including in senior roles, while an author). I really can't put my finger on why that is but I have seen enough of both sides of news stories to know they bash out a story, the story has an agenda, and the writing is fast and loose with facts, has loose ends and facts are omitted, all such that the agenda is not compromised.

I mention below the propagandic nature of the book (i.e. the author has an has an agenda) and to me it is presented with loose ends, avoidance of scientific facts, and prose that seems a little bashed out rather than carefully crafted. But on the prose craftsmanship I cannot really put my finger on it and is likely, at least in part, a personal perception of mine. But, for example from memory, I found the story Hobbies most awkward. The following, right at the get-go of Hobbies, comes across to me as being from an immature writer (school essay?) or bashed out if from a mature one:

Feet pattered on the trail behind him and Shadow whizzed around the bush, slid to a stop alongside Ebenezer.
The wolf flicked his glare from the dog to the pint-sized robot, then back to the dog again. The yellow light of wildness slowly faded from his eyes.

I thought that the book was propagandic--most (all?) fiction is--and emotionally driven. One aspect of that is likely demonstrated by the following claimed to be said of City by Simak (quoted in Seekers of Tomorrow, Moskowitz):

"The series was written in a revulsion again mass killing and as a protest against war," states Simak.

"The series was also written as a sort of wish fulfillment. It was the creation of a world I thought there ought to be. It was filled with the gentleness and the kindness and the courage that I thought were needed in the world. And it was nostalgic because I was nostalgic for the old world we had lost and the world that would never be again—the world that had been wiped out on that day that a man with an umbrella came back to London and told the people there would be a thousand years of peace. I made the dogs and robots the kind of people I would like to live with. And the vital point is this: That they must be dogs or robots, because people were not that kind of folks."

It also seems that his lifestyle sympathies were strongly aligned with simple rural life rather than urban, and that he looked back favorably on his rural upbringing. This is mentioned in a number of web references but also Moskowitz quotes him:

Simak recalls. "We hunted and fished, we ran coons at night, we had a long string of noble squirrel and coon dogs. I sometimes think that despite the fact my boyhood spanned part of the first and second decades of the twentieth century that I actually lived in what amounted to the tail end of the pioneer days"... etc.

The deurbanization of humans and their failings in City come, I believe, from these as emotional matters rather than their just being a convenience for the storyline.

I like science fiction to present the future of science in a manner that, while stretching the imagination, cannot be dismissed as fantasy or cannot be dismissed as being an extremely improbable development either from existing or new science. The author should demonstrate some knowledge of the science of their day. So just two of the things I noticed:

- Jupiter is a gas giant planet composed predominantly of gas (it may or may not have a small solid core) and is not of the type that could be trotted around on as City presents. This was well known at the time of writing as Kepler produced his laws of planetary motion in the early 17th Century and it was trivial to work this out subsequent to that, and so it was proven that it could not be solid by the end of the that century (by Cassini, but Kepler actually did orbital studies of Jupiter's moons much earlier in the century so I would have thought he would have determined for himself Jupiter's density then).

- how all the animals get to be able to speak and have developed intelligences is not really explained (as far as I remember). For dogs a Webster intervention is mentioned and that the ability was then inherited. At the time of the writing of the stories evolution was well understood and known that major evolutionary leaps in a specific characteristic by itself do not occur in one bound. Squirrel ancestors, for example, if they ever come to be able to speak and to have developed intelligences, as they come to do so in City, will no longer be squirrels as we know them to be (divine intervention aside) their other characteristics will have evolved too. I won't bother to get onto Simak's ants with their carts and chimneys!

While other common trappings of science fiction, such as time travel, may be regarded as improbable in current science, most physicists would have an open mind to some degree regarding that. The first example above is known physical fact. The second is also fact (apart from divine intervention). Both were well known at the time the stories were written.

The open ended logic of some of the science and leaps of believability, such as species as known to us now (e.g. a squirrel) becoming talkative and intelligent, is to me fantastical and more appropriate in, say, a childrens book, a dystopian novel (e.g. Animal Farm), or fantasy.

A number of references mention the habit of Simak's work having a tendency to spill over into the fantasy side of the indeterminate border between what is and what is not science fiction. For me the cobblies in the Hobbies and Aesop stories also introduce a fantastical element to the book as these have a suggestive resemblance to mankinds' ghosts, apparitions, bogymen, etc.

With it being fast and loose with facts of science well known at the time of writing, its loose ends, its elements of fantasy, and its (to me) childrens' story dressed up with adult prose, I think I am most satisfied if I read the stories as being dreams. And that is maybe why I quite liked the book .

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Old 09-04-2018, 09:30 AM   #44
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I have read three episodic science fiction novels this year, including this one: City, Dandelion Wine (Bradbury), and Foundation (Asimov).

I found City to be much more like Foundation than like Dandelion Wine. And the comparison is not entirely favorable. I found both somewhat two-dimensional. The best stories were the first when man was still struggling to survive in a society we recognize. I really appreciated the contrast between the city folk and the mountain folk as it feels much like the dichotomy between urban and country people today. This did not carry the same political implications, but the similarities were striking.

As the stories continued, I felt less and less connected to them. The time and generation jumps were just like those in Foundation, and I didn't care for it those either.

Jenkins the robot was by far the best character for me.

Quote:
“He stood and watched his friend hobble around the house, felt the cold claw of loneliness reach out and touch him with icy fingers. A terrible loneliness. The loneliness of age—of age and the outdated.”
He was, it seemed, a robot-become-man who had achieved immortality and had to watch everythign else around him die.
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Old 09-04-2018, 10:25 AM   #45
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I also liked the robot Jenkins, he seemed to me as the only one who came close to living the Juwain Philosophy as intended . As I understood it anyway. ( to have empathy for all creatures ) even so he did two things to alter the course of earth's evolution. One he sent away the ship waiting to take Jerome Webster M.D. to Mars , to save his friend Juwains life. Juwain's complete therory died with Juwain. The humans and every race after only had notes to base the theory on. The mutant Joe stole the notes.

The second was much later when Jenkins found out from another Webster, that ant poison was used to kill ants. Again Jenkins decided not to tell the dogs and the ants inherited earth. The ants like Jenkins had purpose in life. The ants built things and even in adversity ended up building a shrines to the mutant Joe's boot that destroyed the dome that made things easier for them. The proverbial " Kick in the Pants " that kept them going.

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