I’m sorry to interrupt the cover seminar again, but I’m “on the road again.” This time headed to Fyrecon where I’ll be presenting over the next three days starting tomorrow.
Meanwhile a quick thought: I agree with very few of the opinions Clifford Simak expresses in is books. He’s still one of my favorite writers (and number #2 son is only not named after him, because husband says no one deserves to be called Cliff.) and in fact I have been binge reading him.
Sometimes he stops in the middle of his books to explain how in the future there’s no: money, private property or whatever, or to lecture us about how we’ve almost depleted the Earth (consider these were written in 62. ) Yes, he was just parroting the conventional wisdom of his time. Which tells you btw how crazy it’s been and for how long. Some of his opinions were disturbing enough that I asked a friend who knew him if he was a communist. The answer was “No, just a middle class educated person of his time.” Which, again, sounds… odd right now. Particularly because of all the moments you go “Uh… humanity doesn’t work like that.”
For instance, there was this moment in the middle of the book where I’m currently reading where his character is studying back in time to figure out where humanity went wrong. When did the notions of Profit (trading) Greed and the tendency to band together and follow the band come from. Uh… DUDE! We’re great Apes. When did you think we stopped being great apes? Or were you under the impression we came from angels? Which of course, is the foundational error at the heart of all these philosophies (Jean Jacques Rosseau should be burned in effigy for his noble savage and natural man nonsense.)
So, why am I reading him? Is it an exercise in masochism?
Oh, hell no. Both Dave Freer and I love his books. In fact, I own all I could find in paper, first in Portuguese and then in English, and I’m now in the process of buying them all in ebook because my eyes are not what they used to be. One of my projects in the mid oughts was finding them in paper for Dave, because he couldn’t get them where he lived, at any price (and ebooks weren’t a thing yet.)
But I disagree with all his political philosophical opinions. How can I love his writing?
First – because he doesn’t write for propaganda. It’s obvious and clear he really believes in this. All of it. Every little particle. And it slips in when he tries to imagine the future. Well, impossible not to.
Second – his books are fun. No one told him he shouldn’t ponder the imponderable nor poke the unknowable. They’re not every day situations with one thing different (whoever convinced the field that “classy” SF/F is magic realism should be taken back in time and dumped among the mastodons (it’s a Clifford Simak joke, son.)) I love Jorge Luis Borges, but you are not Jorge Luis Borges. You start off from everyday and find yourself face to face with eternity. That’s just good stuff.
Third- his beginnings and situations are just irresistible. He always starts with an opening gambit you can’t turn down. AND HE DOESN’T LET GO.
Fourth – His characters are deeply and touchingly human. He makes real people. Even the automated cafes and the goblins are people. All his airy-fairy notions mean nothing when it comes to building real people. They’re people, not walking cliches.
So — if you have a political view point you want to communicate? (And btw, the left of the field should be giving him posthumous awards, if they really thought the content was the important thing. They won’t, because he is a dead white male, and “left” in SF these days stands for bigot and skin color and chromosomes trump EVERYTHING. Which is how they’ve chosen to take themselves into irrelevance. Wave as they go. We won’t be seeing them again. Not unless we really want to.):
Be like Clifford Simak. Clifford Simak was a writer to his fingertips. Write with passion, with humor, with love with HUMANITY. If your povs drop in — and they will, none of us can avoid it — people will keep reading (perhaps shrugging, if they’re me, but still reading) if the book is good.
Just be a good writer. Nothing else matters. For whatever reason you’re writing, money fame or simple propaganda, be GOOD.
Yes, I know it’s a process, and some of us stumble on every pebble along the way. But don’t stop trying. No one promised you a rose garden not even a written one.
If your goal isn’t excellence in story telling, you’re not living — or writing — right.