Sunday, January 3, 2016

Something For Simak: Way Station (1963)

Illustration by Wood, with more here

January is Vintage Science Fiction Month, with "vintage" being arbitrarily defined as 1979 (or earlier), and my first completed book for the month is Clifford D. Simak's Way Station. I have also read over a hundred pages so far of the new Simak collection.

Simak is good. He's also a local, having grown up in Southwestern Wisconsin, and having been an editor of the Minneapolis Star Tribune. I am curious to know which Minnesota authors consider him an influence. I am tempted to think Eleanor Arnason would be one; I should probably ask her.

Like fellow Wisconsin author August Derleth, and New York's Arch Merrill, there is a strong element of the regional writer to Clifford Simak. In fact, all of the novel Way Station takes place in what appears to be a farm dwelling in rural Wisconsin. The book conveys a strong feeling of nature on farmland in close proximity to the eastern bluffs along the Mississippi River.

So it is all the more extraordinary that the novel deals so effectively with the themes of world (and galactic) peace from the point of view of a seemingly ordinary, if immortal and lonely, Wisconsinite.

The novel also deals with spirituality and mysticism a bit more than a contemporary SF fan might like, and I gather this is a recurrent theme in Simak's work. I rather enjoyed that element of the novel; it reminds me a bit of the work of Cordwainer Smith.

I'll continue reading Simak this month, because the Second Foundation Reading Group (the oldest continuous SF reading group in the Twin Cities) has chosen the works of Clifford D. Simak as its topic for our gathering on January 31, 2 PM, at Parkway Pizza in Minneapolis.

I'm also following through on something I set out to read for last year's Vintage Science Fiction Month: re-reading Frank Herbert's Dune.  Last year, I bought a new copy of Dune specifically for that purpose. Then I went on to read other things. I'm a few chapters into Dune now, so we'll try to see this one through even though it may take a bit more than a month.

But Simak is the priority for right now.

We're on to City next.


  1. He's certainly been an influence on me; I knew both him and Gordy. Their panels on writing that they did at Minicons over the years were both informative and very useful.

    1. I was pretty sure local folks must have known him! It's nice to hear those stories!

  2. You beat me to a review of Way Station! Finished this book the other day, have a review going up in a few days. It was enjoyable, and just a pleasure to read.

    I hope you like Dune, it's one of my favorite novels.

    1. Thanks for stopping by! I'll look forward to seeing your review of Way Station!