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Creator / Clifford Simak

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Clifford Donald Simak (August 3, 1904 April 25, 1988) was a well-known Science Fiction writer. His most famous novels are City, The Goblin Reservation and Way Station; his short story "Huddling Place" appeared in The Science Fiction Hall of Fame, Volume 1, and The Outer Limits (1963) adapted his story "Goodnight, Mr. James" as "The Duplicate Man".

His works tend to be soft science fictions, as he's concentrating on characters and story, not on tech. He tended to be more idealistic than cynical.

What can be said in addition? Let's just say that Isaac Asimov was his Promoted Fanboy.

The author's works provide examples of:

  • Aliens Never Invented the Wheel: The Big Front Yard short story has aliens who never invented paint.
  • All Myths Are True: The premise of the novel Out of Their Minds. Or rather human imagination made them real.
  • Alternate Self: The Goblin Reservation
  • Animal-Vehicle Hybrid: The Goblin Reservation has an alien species that uses biological wheels.
  • Ascended Extra: In the short stories eventually collected as City, Jenkins starts out as a minor character and then moves to the center as humanity disappears.
  • Backup Twin
  • Blue-and-Orange Morality: In City, not only the ants are inscrutable, but the person responsible for the dawn of their civilization, Joe, a telepathic mutant, is also an example. This is actually the point of his character: he does not want to save or subjugate humankind, he just does not wish to encounter them, and does not value the very concept of society.
  • Came from the Sky: In Mastodonia, protagonist Asa Steele has been excavating what looks like a meteor crater on his family farm, but his discoveries are making him instead think it's the place where a spaceship crashed thousands of years ago. He's right. Furthermore, one of the aliens escaped the crash and has been living in the area ever since, hoping for rescue.
  • Clarke's Third Law: The Goblin Reservation plays it straight. Magical creatures turn out to have been engineered by Sufficiently Advanced Aliens.
  • Cosy Catastrophe: Humanity's fate in the City. Human civilization simply lived its course and ended slowly and (relatively) peacefully.
  • Creator Provincialism: Simak often set his stories in Millville, where he was born.
  • Creator Thumbprint: Many.
    • Just One Second Out of Sync, especially if it's used to create alternative Earths.
    • The hero, the love interest, the nonhuman sidekick and a bunch of loonies go on a quest, loonies gradually vanish from the party for reasons directly connected to the reason they went on a journey in the first place, yadda yadda yadda, happy ending, true love, and some mystical higher forces were behind all this.
    • Goblins. He has a very interesting interpretation of goblins as magic eldritch abominations from other dimensions or planets, with reasons unknown, and morality radically different, and logic that will never be understood by us humans.
    • Different biological lifeforms with wheels feature in The Goblin Reservation and several short stories. (In most cases, it's evidence they've been engineered).
    • The town Millville.
  • Earth That Used to Be Better: City's main theme is the decline and fall of humanity, so there's plenty of the examples along the way. Eventually the earth reverts to its original state, but its masters are now sentient, industrious and incomprehensible Ants, and what will happen to it is a question.
  • The Ending Changes Everything: Simak loved writing novels with an important reveal on the last page:
    • All Flesh Is Grass: Flowers try very hard to help humans. They don't want any recompense, or so they claim. They simply enjoy being loved for what they look like — beautiful flowers. No alien race has ever done this before.
    • Time and Again: The hero's life's work won't be liked by many humans. Instead they would publish a "revised edition" that insists on Humanity's superiority. Exactly how popular is the original edition? None of the hero's friends are real humans. He's doing what's right, rather than what humans would like, and if he knew that, he may abandon the work. (Note that this novel was published under several names with different endings.)
    • Werewolf Principle: There's no place for the hero on future Earth. He's going to leave it forever to study new worlds. This entails losing his newly-found love and lonely immortality. Then she tells she is a similar android who has to leave Earth for the same reason, making Downer Ending a Bittersweet Ending. Then her uplifting speech about the importance of their work arguably turns it into a Happy Ending.
    • Space Engineers: Less drastic change, making the happy ending even better. Our universe is populated by Starfish Aliens who can hardly communicate with Engineers and cannot help. The similarities between humans and Engineers are too many to be coincidental. Engineers were created as servants by the late inhabitants of Pluto. The same race created life on Earth and programmed the evolution of mankind. Everything Engineers have created so far should and will belong to humans — when humans become mature enough.
    • Ring Around the Sun: The hero's arch-nemesis and the only man capable of thwarting the good guys' plans is his clone.note  To stop the upcoming war the hero just has to tell him everything and invite his brother to join.
    • Out of Their Minds: The Devil seems to represent the unanimous opinion of imaginary creatures. Actually, he does not. Others will force him to leave humans alone.
  • Expendable Clone: Duplicates in Good Night, Mr. James are treated as legally and morally expendable. The main character's a duplicate.
  • Future Slang: In City, the intelligent dogs come to call all human beings "websters," after Jenkins' owners the Webster family.
  • Humanity Is Superior: Inverted. Humanity is a young race, if other alien races are adults then humanity is in kindergarten, and going to "school" is one of his favorite plots.
  • Humans Are Special: Way Station and other stories.
  • Immortality: Jenkins, the immortal robot in the City, whose fate is to see the twilight of Humanity.
  • Inconspicuous Immortal: In the story "Grotto of the Dancing Deer", Luis (the prehistoric painter of the titular deer) explains to the modern-day protagonist that his secret to surviving as The Ageless is to be inconspicuous, as well as thick-skinned and a Dirty Coward.
  • Kill and Replace: Good Night, Mr. James. The duplicate succeeds in killing the original, but finds out that he was poisoned immediately after he was made.
    • This ending was softened when the story was adapted for The Outer Limits (1963) as "The Duplicate Man": The duplicate still dies, but the original not only survives, but becomes a better person because the duplicate reminds him of his younger, more idealistic self.
  • Merging Machine/Tele-Frag: Mentioned to have happened in The Goblin Reservation.
  • The Multiverse: The "cobbly" dimension in City. All of the characters can move between the cobbly worlds and the original universe; eventually, Jenkins has to move all of the remaining human beings there to protect the growing animal civilization.
  • Necessarily Evil: "Skirmish": All human development has been based upon synthetic technology of some kind, and thanks to Instant A.I.: Just Add Water!, people must either revert to savagery or knowingly enslave an entire species. (Lamarck Was Right isn't an option here—even a sewing machine comes to life.) They choose to enslave the technology, viewing it as a necessary cost.
  • No Transhumanism Allowed: Averted for good in City, which eventually brought humanity's downfall. Humans were initially baffled by unexplained disappearances of scientists, transformed to survive the conditions on Jupiter, until one of them finally returned. It happened that the life of the transformed being was so much better, that most people simply left the Earth and their humanity.
  • Old Retainer: For possibly the Oldest Old Retainer ever, we have Jenkins, the robotic butler in City.
  • Our Dragons Are Different: The mystery central to the plot of The Goblin Reservation. Last of Its Kind. Beloved pet of Sufficiently Advanced Aliens who want to give him to a good home. Accidentally stolen by human time travellers from Jurassic period of Earth.
  • Our Ghosts Are Different: The Goblin Reservation, also the cobblies in City.
  • Our Goblins Are Different: Very different. They are the Fair Folk, for one. And they aren't evil, they are just... well, really alien.
  • Portal Network: Interstellar teleporters in The Goblin Reservation. Transported by slower-than-light starships, provide cheap instant travel when activated.
  • Psychic Powers: Time is the Simplest Thing, Ring Around the Sun, the Big Bad in The World of the Red Sun...
    • In Mastodonia, the alien called 'Catface' communicates by telepathy. Its ability to create portals into the past also seem to be this — at least, it doesn't need any kind of machine to create them.
    • Also, in his first story, The World of the Red Sun, the main characters place the Time Machine on an aeroplane to avoid being TeleFragged by mountains or buidings.
  • Psychic Teleportation: In "Immigrant", all natives of Kimon are capable of teleporting at will. Some of the Earth immigrants managed to pick up the skill as well.
  • Referenced by...: In Driftless Wormhole, a couple of the main characters discuss "Project Mastodon", a Simak novella about a time travel plan that goes wrong just before one of them gets Trapped in the Past.
  • Religious Robot: In Message From The Stars, the humans have transcended their physical forms, casting aside their old religions as well as as the robots that used to serve them. Having lost the purpose of serving mankind, the robots have instead turned to Christianity. It is implied that their theological discourse will gradually turn Catholicism into a Robot Religion, just like Afro-American churches tend to have a black Jesus on the cross.
  • Sliding Scale of Robot Intelligence: The robots in City, Jenkins included, operate at the level of a normal human.
  • Solar System Neighbors: In Desertion, there is apparently life all over the Solar System, a fact which humans have been exploiting by artificially converting themselves into native lifeforms; it's stated that they have already taken over several planets this way (the moral and ethical issues aren't brought up). However, when they do so on Jupiter, the converted volunteers head off and never come back. Everyone assumes they've died somehow, but it turns out that Jovian "Lopers" are vastly physically and mentally superior to humans; having considered their former lives from their newly-gained perspective, they can't bear the thought of becoming human again.
  • Starfish Aliens: IN SPADES.
    • In The Goblin Reservation we have Wheelers, each of them is a hive of sentient worms in a bag on two wheels using a biological equivalent for a rocket engine to move around. Some aliens, like the Wailer in Special Deliverance, are just incomprehensible.
    • Ants in the City. They simply ignore everyone else, forcing remaining humans and dogs to leave the Earth for good.
  • Time Travel: a number of them, starting from his first short story. Note that in most of his works the timestream can't be changed, a human being can be an observer of the past at most. This tradition dates from his first story, too
    • In City the time travel is impossible — the time there is a string of Alternate Universes moving through it, so any attempt of time travel will simply bring you to parallel world.
  • Trope Namer: Of Pastoral Science Fiction, meaning science fiction set in the countryside.
  • Twinmaker: Teleporters in The Goblin Reservation can work that way if someone manages to intercept the signal. It takes Sufficiently Advanced Aliens, though.
  • Unable to Cry: Jenkins mourns his inability to cry at the end of City:
    If he could only weep, he thought, but a robot could not weep.
  • Witch Hunt: In Time is the Simplest Thing, witches are people with Psychic Powers. Some of them actually fly on brooms if they want to.
  • Your Mind Makes It Real: In Out of Their Minds humans give life to all kinds of monsters by imagining them.

Alternative Title(s): Clifford D Simak