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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Discussing Published Hooks & Books » Writer's Book Report: WAY STATION (Simak, 1963) (Page 1)

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Author Topic: Writer's Book Report: WAY STATION (Simak, 1963)
MattLeo
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Every day Enoch Wallace hikes down from his house in the backwoods of Wisconsin to get his mail. According to local opinion he's a hermit with only two human friends. The interesting thing about that opinion is that it's only half-right: Enoch's not a hermit, it's just that most of his friends are non-human. In comparison to his alien friends the fact he's been taking that same walk every day for the last hundred years seems unremarkable, and they aren't even the most peculiar of his companions...

In 1963, Cifford D. Simak won the Best Novel Hugo for the story "Way Station", a 72,000 word novel about a Civil War veteran who apparently hasn't changed in a hundred years. A lot changes in fifty years, much less a hundred. Today, fifty years after its publication, "Way Station" violates countless modern canons of taste and style, right from its very first 13 lines:

quote:
The noise was ended now. The smoke drifted like thin, gray wisps of fog above the tortured earth and the shattered fences and the peach trees that had been whittled into toothpicks by the cannon fire. For a moment silence, if not peace, fell upon those few square miles of ground where just a while before men had screamed and torn at one another in the frenzy of old hate and had contended in an ancient striving and then had fallen apart, exhausted.

For endless time, it seemed, there had been belching thunder rolling from horizon to horizon and the gouted earth that had spouted in the sky and the screams of horses and the hoarse bellowing of men; the whistling of metal and the thud when the whistle ended; the flash of searing fire and the brightness of the steel; the bravery of the colors snapping in the battle wind.

Note the peach trees "whittled into toothpicks by cannon fire". This is a Simakian touch. Perhaps uniquely among Golden Age sci-fi writers, Clifford Simak often wrote *rural* science fiction. Like J.R.R. Tolkien he is a close observer of landscape:

quote:
Grass had grown into thick turf between the ancient ruts, which had been cut so deep into the clay by the iron tires of the old-time wagons that they still were no more than bare, impacted earth in which no plant as yet had gained a root-hold. But on each side the clumps of brush, creeping up the field from the forest's edge, grew man-high or better, so that now one moved down an aisle of green.
Many writers give us protagonists who are rugged individualists, but Simak places them in the kind of setting that actually produces such people.

Consider landscape as a character for a moment. Most writers know that a character has to appear to be more than an automaton that performs necessary plot functions. However they don't seem to carry over this attention to specificity and credibility to their settings, which are typically mere stages upon which the action takes place. With Simak (as with Tolkien), the settings are clearly fixed in our mind's eye. It's not just immediately apparent that bluffs above the lower Wisconsin River are a logical place for a hundred and twenty-three year-old hermit to hide; if you were magically transported there you'd instantly recognize the place from Simak's descriptions.

So what is wrong with the opening chapter? First of all, it's not an opening chapter at all, but a prologue, which today many agents and editors claim is the kiss of death for a story opening. Not only that, the prologue-ing continues through three additional chapters taking place in the "present day" (1963). These chapters are narrated from the point of view of CIA operative Claude Lewis, and consist of a 3700 word conversation with audience surrogate character Dr. Erwin Hardwicke, interrupted by a 2300 word flashback by Lewis depicting his exploration of Wallace's homestead. After this Hardwicke never reappears. Lewis does take part in some of the novel's later events, but we never re-enter his POV. This gives the opening a kind of tacked-on feel.

Chapters 2-4 raise multiple structural red flags. First of all, they take us out of the protagonist's POV, which dominates the rest of the novel. Second, they mostly amount to a reader briefing, accomplished by having a minor character relating past events to a throw-away character. Third, it's questionable whether the reader needs this briefing, since the gist of the briefing is that yes, Enoch Wallace really is a 123 year-old hermit who served in the Civil War. But we the readers know this from reading the book's cover; we understand this to be the case going in, so we don't really need to be persuaded.

I can easily imagine the critique I'd give this if a Hatracker sent me it as a manuscript, but there are some redeeming features here. Let's start with the unfair one: the reader knows this is Simak he's reading, and there are future rewards in store. This is a pass an acknowledged master gets that you or I do not. So what does Simak accomplish with this pass? Well, he does a nice job of maintaining Enoch (note the clever biblical reference) Wallace as a mysterious figure. This continues for four chapters amounting to roughly 6400 words, then we get deep into Enoch's head in chapter 5 and stay there. In fact the novel is almost unique in my experience in largely consisting of a recounting of the protagonist's thoughts and feelings. Focusing so much on Enoch's opinions powerfully de-mystifies him, which in turn makes the mumbo-jumbo of the first four chapters superfluous.

I think what we see in this novel is similar to what we see in Lord of the Rings -- an author starting out seat-of-the-pants to figure out what the story is about, and producing structural clutter in the first 10% of the MS -- albeit sometimes brilliant clutter. In the case of Simak, the flash of brilliance is the insertion of the third chapter -- Agent Lewis' flashback -- into the long reader briefing dialogue with Hardwicke. Here is the opening of the chapter:

quote:
He had an hour. He knew he had an hour, for he had timed Enoch Wallace during the last ten days. And from the time he left the house until he got back with his mail, it had never been less than an hour. Sometimes a little longer, when the mailman might be late, or they got to talking. But an hour, Lewis told himself, was all that he could count on.
Here we have a superb use of the "ticking time-bomb" device. Lewis has one hour to investigate the mysterious Enoch's even more mysterious lair. Often this device is used ham-handedly, but here it is perfectly reasonable. The scenario is an inherently uncomfortable -- Simak is not relying upon the ticking time bomb to create all the suspense. Enoch is a slightly scary figure; Lewis is trespassing on his property -- a sure-fire way to enlist our inner moralist in generating anxiety. The chapter also gives Simak the chance to show off more of his special touches, as when Lewis hightails it off of Enoch's property through a long-neglected orchard:

quote:
He reached up as he went along, picking an apple here and there, scrubby things and sour, taking a single bite out of each one of them, then throwing it away, for there was none of them that was fit to eat, as if they might have taken from the neglected soil a certain basic bitterness.

This is a detail that puts a seal on the deal, that makes it feel real. Not many authors can do that.

I suppose if one must have several thousand words of reader briefing, it's a clever idea to break it up with a well-executed, suspenseful scene. But it doesn't really change the fact that the briefing isn't necessary, nor is it all that interesting. If this were a MS given to me to critique, I'd suggest dropping the prologue (good though it is) and the briefing, and make Lewis' exploration of Enoch's property the prologue. This would establish everything that needs to be established for the later part of the book, deal with the fact that Lewis' narrative POV disappears, and strengthen the opening by dropping superfluous backstory.

So far I've been discussing the first 10% of the novel; the remainder of the novel is characterized (or perhaps plagued) by narrative oddities, the chief of which is that the bulk of the story doesn't take place in present day 1963, but in Enoch's thinking about the past. In a few cases his thoughts shade into full-blown flashbacks, but mostly it's him ruminating on the significance of past events. It's arguably an appropriate picture of a 123 year-old hermit, but stylistically it's an odd and at times challenging choice. Simak leavens this with some impeccable scenes -- of first contact with an alien race, of action, and of course of Simakian landscapes.

But still, as a writer you wonder what would happen if we edited out the rumination, and boiled it down to just the bits that move the plot forward. For one thing instead of a 72,000 word novel, you'd have a 30,000 word novella. It'd have those telling Simakian touches, but it wouldn't be the same strange, challenging, dream-like story. The novel as it is takes bizarre and sometimes disconcerting detours into fantasy, magic, and religion. In that it resembles a novel published the previous year (1962): Madeleine L'Engle's "A Wrinkle in Time". Both books are written at a time when the destruction of the human race seemed a realistic possibility, with good, or at least well-meaning people playing a key role. The following year (1964) saw the release of Stanley Kubrick's "Dr. Strangelove".

Where Kubrick's response to to Armageddon was satire, L'Engle and Simak's response was mystical; but "Way Station" lacks the cohesion and structural perfection of "A Wrinkle in Time". It's not that Simak couldn't write with such perfection, as he did in his 1959 Hugo winning novelette "The Big Front Yard". It's that *this* story is messy, and deals with certain issues more intractable than racial Armageddon, such as the loneliness of confronting personal mortality. A subplot about magic enters the middle of the story, seemingly out of nowhere, dissipates, and mysteriously returns at the end of the book to cap the happy resolution with a more somber, elegiac conclusion. This calls writing perfection as an end in itself into question. Perhaps in a more perfect, more pat, more streamlined story, themes of loss and mortality might not resonate so strongly.

Of course all manuscripts have their strong and weak points, but it's seldom that that they reach such extremes as in "Way Station". Overall, it's a masterpiece, but one that indulges in practices journeymen are schooled to regard as fatal flaws. The combination of thematic and imaginative richness with loose construction produces (for me at least) a dream-like quality. It's writing as mysticism.

For me the take-home lessons of "Way Station" are the full realization of setting and landscape as a distinct and credible character in the story and the power of subplots to create thematic depth and shading, even in spite of the narrative difficulties they sometimes raise. While I wouldn't take a casual attitude toward imperfections in my own writing, "Way Station" shows how great writing isn't just about writing tastefully and avoiding faux pas in current literary fashion. It's about striking a responsive chord in the reader. It's not clear whether as many modern readers would respond to "Way Station" as did in 1963, but the story can still speak to some readers, perhaps those who have confronted loss and mortality.

[ January 26, 2013, 01:12 AM: Message edited by: MattLeo ]

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Robert Nowall
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I can't recall this as well as I can recall several other Simak works---Mastodonia, the City cycle, and Time and Again come to mind---and I'm also dubious about award-winning works I don't like---but I can't say what Simak did with his work was bad in any sense, just different, and maybe not in accord with the current stylistic norms...
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MattLeo
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quote:
Originally posted by Robert Nowall:
I can't recall this as well as I can recall several other Simak works---Mastodonia, the City cycle, and Time and Again come to mind---and I'm also dubious about award-winning works I don't like---but I can't say what Simak did with his work was bad in any sense, just different, and maybe not in accord with the current stylistic norms...

I've been thinking about what it is about this book that makes it feel dated. In part it's the way the specter of nuclear Armageddon hunts it, as Armageddon haunts many stories of that era. There's also more exacting fashions in style for things like handling backstory.

But mostly I think what makes me uncomfortable with this story is its naked appeal to raw emotion. As a culture we've become very postmodern and ironically self-aware. You wouldn't feel comfortable writing such an appeal without undermining it with a knowing wink; not unless you were intentionally writing sentimental low-brow trash. Raw sentiment isn't on the menu for the thinking reader.

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rcmann
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Story telling is an art form. There is no right or wrong way to make art. There can be, and often is, a popular of unpopular way. But there is no inherently proper or improper, no right or wrong, no appropriate or inappropriate way to craft artistic expression.

Simak had his way. Picasso had his way. Mozart had his way. Shakespeare had his way. L'Engle had her way. Johnny Carson had his way (Yes, I consider performing to be a valid art form).

Everyone does it different because art is as individual as the person doing it. What difference does it make if the person doing it fits the current fashion? H.P. Lovecraft was essentially ignored during hie lifetime, except for a very narrow circle of enthusiasts. Now he is considered an icon.

I happen to like Simak's work very much because I too am a decrepit hick. Country living tends to produce a certain style, especially country living in the time period when Simak was writing. it fits some of us. No reason is should fit everyone. It ain't s'posed ta fit ever'body.

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MattLeo
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quote:
Originally posted by rcmann:
What difference does it make if the person doing it fits the current fashion?

The answer depends on why you're asking the question, doesn't it?

One thing that bugs me is how uniform fantasy and spec fiction books that get published seem to each other. I think one way to refresh your perspective is to go back to stuff that doesn't get read much any longer.

[ February 04, 2013, 09:17 PM: Message edited by: MattLeo ]

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Robert Nowall
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I'm just not moved by much of what I pick up in modern / recent SF these days---the "literary" trend of some writers disturbs me, and not just 'cause it excludes the likes of me---but I think that's an "age" thing. I'm moved by what I read when I was younger, and it moves me still, but little that is new moves me. (This happens with music---most of what's come along after 1985 doesn't stay with me, and my explorations tend to be of stuff before that date. Not always, but mostly.)

I was just now rereading a short story by Gordon R. Dickson---"Brothers," part of his "Childe Cycle" series---and still found it moving enough that I'm planning a dip into some of his other work. I can, right now, only recall what I thought of this series way back then---though I thought, even then, that the objects and conclusions about the evolution of Man presented in the story were somewhat suspect, the stories themselves moved forward with lightning speed and kept me propelled through to the end.

On the similarities between books-that-get-published...in a way, that plays into my lack of interest these days. Publishers print a lot of "me, too" books---if something is successful, they print up a lot more like it. There seem to be endless books about teen vampires or zombies or werewolves or whatever...there are slavish Tolkien ripoffs...and straight SF seems to take a backseat to all of it. I'm just not interested in the first two categories anymore (though I read a fair amount of Tolkien ripoffs in the early days of it.) Once in a while I might pick up something, but it's not gonna happen on a regular basis unless it does grab me...

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MattLeo
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Oh, man Gordie Dickson. Now there was a writer who could spin a yarn.

I haven't read any of his stuff in years. I can't say that I ever remember being moved by anything Gordie Dickson wrote, but I certainly remember being entertained.

I think if anything entertainment is a better test of craft than emotional impact. I'll have to put him on my study list.

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History
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I concur. I do not find as much enjoyment in the current "hot" writers in sf & f (with a few exceptions of wordsmiths who tend to the literary side).

Clifford D. Simak was a great writer, and had the awareness of nature and environment that leant a depth and reality to his settings and characters.

Gordon Dickson was a great writer of epic (and humorous) fiction. I found his massive The Final Encyclopedia a masterpiece. His Dorsai! series was thrilling and also poignant in its depiction of war and warriors. It is sad the series was never concluded.

Another who comes to mind as unique and a grand master of both sf and f : Ursula K.LeGuin.

I could go on.

Respectfully,
Dr. Bob

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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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Another source of some older stuff:

The entire run of Omni magazine is available online for free.

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Robert Nowall
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Great! Awesome! They had some really good stuff in their day.

*****

I looked in the local Barnes & Noble this morning, but didn't see one book by Gordon R. Dickson. A sad fate, in some ways, to be filed and forgotten...I once read he was hoping to sell something to the movies for big bucks, so he could go to Europe, do some research, and complete the Childe cycle properly...a movie sale that never happened before his death, alas.

Ah, well...I've still got my editions of his work---the aforementioned "Brothers" was in an anthology titled Astounding: John W. Campbell Memorial Anthology, and happened to be on my desk table here as I type. I'll dig out my copy of Dorsai! shortly, I think.

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History
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If its free on line, I guess my preserved copies are not worth much. [Wink] I actually submitted a story to them when I was in college.

Respectfully,
Dr. Bob (showing my age)

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Robert Nowall
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Several dozen submissions...I was more prolific in those days, but not particularly good.
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History
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The Astounding: John W. Campbell Memorial Anthology is an excellent one! A collection of "Golden Age of Science Fiction" greats. How many of these authors do our young Treehouse Members know and have read, I wonder?

"The Father of Science Fiction"--introduction by Isaac Asimov
"Lodestar"--Poul Anderson
"Thiotimoline to the Stars"--Isaac Asimov
"Something Up There Likes Me"--Alfred Bester
"Lecture Demonstration"--Hal Clement
"Early Bird"--Theodore Cogswell and Theodore L. Thomas
"The Emperor's Fan"--L. Sprague de Camp
"Brothers"--Gordon R. Dickson
"The Mothballed Spaceship"--Harry Harrison
"Black Sheep Astray"--Mack Reynolds
"Epilog"--Clifford D. Simak
"The External Triangle"--George O. Smith
"Helix the Cat"--Theodore Sturgeon
"Probability Zero; The Population Implosion" --Theodore R. Cogswell
"Afterword"--Harry Harrison

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Robert Nowall
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In my case, every one that's in it---but I guess I'm no longer among the young ones. I did think (in retrospect) that only the stories by Anderson, Bester, Dickson, and Reynolds had any real oomph, though the Sturgeon story had an interesting history behind it and was a lot of fun.
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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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It would be helpful if you included a link to access (either digitized online or by purchase) for that anthology, Dr. Bob.
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History
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Sure, Kathleen.
See:

http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=Astounding+John+Campbell+memorial

A caveat: What made these stories particularly enjoyable was the mix of nostalgia and fresh excitement they evoked by presenting new stories with old loved characters or worlds. This may not be true for readers unfamiliar with these authors and their works.

Respectfully,
Dr. Bob

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Robert Nowall
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Maybe I should'a mentioned that my copy was the paperback---which had that famous Kelly Freas cover also featured here:

http://www.philsp.com/data/images/a/astounding_science_fiction_195310.jpg

Paperbacks were by and large what I bought in those days, up until prosperity hit me in the 1990s...

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History
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I was a member of the SF Book Club back then. They provided cheap hardcovers (undersized)--of which my copy of Astounding was one.
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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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Thank you, Dr. Bob.

We can hope that some readers unfamiliar to these authors' works might find these stories to be an introduction, at least.

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LDWriter2
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Just decided to check out this thread again so just noticed the discussion on "Astounding" .

Don't think I've seen it but I know all but one of those writers and like the ones I do know.

If anyone hasn't read them do start now...great stuff there.


Looks like I have a reason to go check out used bookstores again,

unless B&N has it e-pubed. They do have a lot of old novels most are very cheap.

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LDWriter2
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Oh, I should take this chance to say Matt did a yeoman's job on that book report. Very detailed and took a lot of time.
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Robert Nowall
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We did seem to wander away from Clifford D. Simak and Way Station. On closer examination...near as I can tell from my disorganized files, I don't have a copy of it, and, therefore, probably didn't read it. (Cemetery World is probably my favorite Simak novel.) Wasn't it a short story before it was a novel? I think I remember that. But I will make a more thorough search once I conclude my daily online business / goofing off.

*****

Mention of the Science Fiction Book Club reminds me of the lingering animosity I still have for it. Mostly it was their stated policy of "you buy four books in a year and aren't required to buy anything further." I did that...then hit one of those poverty pockets in my life and didn't buy anything for two years---and they stopped sending their catalog to me. Tried it again a few years later...the same thing happened when I didn't buy anything. Decided never to join another book club...and, in the unlikely event that I sell a book to a publisher, I might insist that there be no book club edition...petty of me.

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MattLeo
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quote:
Originally posted by LDWriter2:
Oh, I should take this chance to say Matt did a yeoman's job on that book report. Very detailed and took a lot of time.

Louis -- thanks for the shout out.

The book report was a lot of work, but for me this is what it's all about. I never harbored the ambition of being a published writer; I got started because reading was so important to me and I wanted to know how a great story worked.

I plan on doing one of these writer's book reports every couple of months and I encourage others here to contribute their own writer's book reports. If all the regular contributors here did one writer's book report a year, then we'd have a valuable resource that would widen our horizons as writers.

Next up for me is either Gordie Dickson's "Dorsai!" or Lord Dunsany's "King of Elfland's Daughter". I haven't decided. If anyone has a preference, let me know. Better yet if anyone wants to take one of these for their own WBR, I've got plenty of other books in my study queue.

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Robert Nowall
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I'd give the edge to Dorsai!, if you can get a copy. (It doesn't seem to be available in any sort of e-book format, and it's out of print at the moment.) One might take it to be the story of a man who sets out to conquer the universe---but, really, it's not about that at all. I just finished rereading it, and I grasp much I didn't "get" when I read it and liked it, years ago...

The King of Elfland's Daughter is more readily available. I just got a new copy recently, though I haven't yet reread it.

Of course there are lots of other works. The Library of America last year put out a two-volume set of nine 1950s SF novels, all of which are great, classics in the field, if you're looking for something worthy of your attention---or just looking for a good read.

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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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I second Robert's recommendation, having read both, and much preferred DORSAI (which has had much better "legs" in my memory).
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History
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Apples versus oranges, or steak versus chicken, Kathleen.

Dunsany fantasy and Dickson space opera are both delightful, depending upon one's mood.

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Robert Nowall
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Well, I've pushed on to other books of the Childe cycle...I remember not much liking The Tactics of Mistake when I first read it, and, in any case, couldn't locate my (hardcover book club) copy in my (disorganized) collection (in a room filled with books and other debris of storage.) But I dug up several paperbacks of Dorsai!, Soldier, Ask Not, The Final Encyclopedia, and a couple of collections. I never read anything past The Final Encyclopedia, being in one of my "flat broke" periods when they were published.

I should mention that while I'm reading these works of Dickson, here at my computer, I've got other piles of books elsewhere that I read simultaneously with them. Bedise, bathroom, armchair, lunchbox...I like to mix it up.

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History
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The SF Book Club edition Three to Dorsai! (Doubleday 1975) includes the first three sf novels of the series:

Necromancer
Tactics of Mistake
Dorsai!

http://www.amazon.com/Three-Dorsai-Necromancer-Tactics-Mistake/dp/B0006CMDHU

and, I just discovered, there was a Four to Dorsai! that adds the next novel in the series (but written earlier), Soldier Ask Not which I vaguely remember, but fondly.

The Final Encyclopedia and The Chantry Guild were the penultimate novels in the series completed (over a decade later) by Gordon Dickson before his death. Four shorter pieces in the series were collected in The Dorsai Companion

Sadly, Childe the climactic final novel in the sf portion of the series was never completed.

Additional historical and contemporay novels were conceived by Dickson as part of his The Childe Cycle but never written.

Three novels based on the later novels antagonist Bleys Ahrens Young Bleys; The Other; Antagonist (the last completed posthumously by Dickson assistant David Wixon) were then written to expand the story of the major characters before their ultimate confrontation in Childe. Most found these later novels comparatively disappointing.

My greatest disappointment is that the final novel, repeteadly referred to as "the capstone of the series", was never completed by Dickson or anyone of appropriate skill--nor have any outline, notes, or hints been released concerning what he planned to end the series.

Therefore, I've chosen to read The King of Elfland's Daughter by Lord Dunsany at my next opportunity. A quarter century ago, when just entering private practice, I discovered a 1924 Putnum vellum limited edition (run of 250) in a hole-in-the-wall bookstore in the tiny Maine town of Hallowell, Maine. The edition was signed by Dunsany (in his trademark quill and ink) and by artist Sidney Sime. I scraped together some funds (vainly trying to conceal this from my wife) and purchased it. At the time, it was the most expensive book I had ever purchased. I'll now finally read it (though I'll read Lin Carter's intro from my old Ballantine Books edition first). I don't think I am capable of writing a book report as well as Matt Leo, but I will share if I find The King of Elfland's Daughter as magical and awe-inspiring as I did during one long-ago summer when I was lad.

Respectfully,
Dr. Bob

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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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I find myself wondering why "The Lost Dorsai" is not coming up in this discussion. Or am I remembering it by the wrong title? As much as I liked and remember the other Dorsai stories I read, that one is the one that really sticks in my memory.
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History
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The Lost Dorsai contained two of the four shorter works (the novella of the title and the short story Warrior ) that were later all included in The Dorsai Companion.
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Robert Nowall
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Probably because I started the evolving of the discussion into this discussion of the Childe Cycle, and I started with "Brothers." I remember Lost Dorsai quite well---though I read "Brothers" and Dorsai and the short version of Soldier, Ask Not before reading Lost Dorsai, it was Lost Dorsai that set off my interest in the matter. As it is said near the end, it's the saga of a man who wanted two things: "One was to be the Dorsai he was born to be, and the other was never to use a weapon." The story resolves the matter---rather than post a spoiler on it, I'll leave you latter-day types to seek out the story and find out what happens.

#

I had been under the impression, up till now, that Childe, the final volume, had been completed and published---but a little research before posting this disabused me of this notion. (Probably I mistook some further volumes for it.) A sad regret. I also regret the non-appearance of the historical and contemporary novels---a sad commentary on being locked into the SF genre of its day.

#

Probably Childe will never be completed, even by others, even if any portion of it still exists. I gather Dickson made notes for the series, lost them, then worked from memory and "made it up as he went along." (Corrections, pointed out by intrepid researchers, were made in later editions.) It means nobody could know what he had in mind, and the book couldn't be completed if nobody knew what was supposed to happen...

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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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I wonder if it would be worth trying to get Brandon Sanderson interested.
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LDWriter2
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quote:
Originally posted by Robert Nowall:
I'd give the edge to Dorsai!, if you can get a copy. (It doesn't seem to be available in any sort of e-book format, and it's out of print at the moment.) One might take it to be the story of a man who sets out to conquer the universe---but, really, it's not about that at all. I just finished rereading it, and I grasp much I didn't "get" when I read it and liked it, years ago...

The King of Elfland's Daughter is more readily available. I just got a new copy recently, though I haven't yet reread it.

Of course there are lots of other works. The Library of America last year put out a two-volume set of nine 1950s SF novels, all of which are great, classics in the field, if you're looking for something worthy of your attention---or just looking for a good read.

Meant to get back to this sooner.

I have read "Dorsai!" but not Elfking---that I can remember.

While I was reading the Dorsai books I read of one Con that said they were using Dorsai for security. That was my first hint that they were well known.
The last one I read was the "Dark Dorsai"--I think was the name. It probably was a novelette.

I need to find Elfkind if I can, so I can look it over. It is possible I read it some time.

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LDWriter2
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quote:
Originally posted by Kathleen Dalton Woodbury:
I find myself wondering why "The Lost Dorsai" is not coming up in this discussion. Or am I remembering it by the wrong title? As much as I liked and remember the other Dorsai stories I read, that one is the one that really sticks in my memory.

It's been ages since I read any.

That might be the one I titled "Dark Dorsai" about one of two brothers, or is it the one about the musical, pacifist Dorsai? Or ?

I loved the Dorsai tales but Dickson seemed to have a different writing style. I'm not sure I would put him up in my top ten even top ten older writers.

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Crystal Stevens
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Maybe I just like books off the beaten track, but Dickson is one of my all time favorite writers. I just love his humor and wit in the Dragon Knight series and wish there had been more Dragon Knight books. The thing that got me was how wide a gap--decades in fact-- between the first book, "The Dragon and the George", came out and the start of the DK series. It's been years since I've read that series, so my memory may not be too sharp on details, but to me it was one of the best series ever written. And I still have all the books in the series in my little library,.

Never read the Dorsai stuff. Was going to but never seemed to get around to it. I'll have to look for it the next time I'm at the used book store [Smile] .

And personally, I'd rather be entertained any day of the week than figuring out some deep behind the scenes meaning in any book. JMO

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Robert Nowall
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LDWriter2, from the descriptions, the latter is Lost Dorsai, but the former could be either "Warrior" or "Brothers"---Ian Grahame, considered the darker of the twin Brothers Grahame, features prominently in the two stories. (He and his brother Kensie together are central to Lost Dorsai and "Brothers"---"Brothers" is how Ian reacted to Kensie's death.)

*****

Y'know, I read and loved The Dragon and the George, but, though I bought at least two more in the series, I never got around to reading them...

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Crystal Stevens
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quote:
Originally posted by Robert Nowall:
Y'know, I read and loved The Dragon and the George, but, though I bought at least two more in the series, I never got around to reading them...

Oh you should. It takes off from where "The Dragon and the George" left off. And the humor, action, and magic is great. I about died laughing when the main character turned into a dragon at the breakfast table near "The Dragon Knight"'s beginning.

The thing I remember finding fascinating in this series was how Dickson delved into how every day life was back in that time period. You felt like you were truly there.

Something else that occurred to me, but wasn't Dickson actually two authors working in collaboration under the pen name Gordon R. Dickson? Or am I mistaken?

And Puleeze forgive me for highjacking this thread. Really sorry about that.

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History
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quote:
Originally posted by Kathleen Dalton Woodbury:
I wonder if it would be worth trying to get Brandon Sanderson interested.

Funny. I was thinking of him as I wrote my prior post, since he did as well as anyone could have expected finishing Robert Jordan's "The Wheel of Time" series.

LD, I know of no Dark Dorsai. Perhaps you mean Lost Dorsai as Robert suggests?

Crystal, I also have (but never read) a number of Dickson's Dragon series. When The Dragon and the George came out I was a little miffed, for I had written an (unsold) short story of the same title earlier that year. [Wink]
Are you aware there was a pseudo-adaption of the book (combined with Peter Dickinson's book The FLight of the Dragons) into an animated film? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flight_of_Dragons
And a live action film is proposed for 2013.
No. Gordon R Dickson was a sole author. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gordon_R._Dickson

Respectfully,
Dr. Bob

[ February 14, 2013, 12:43 PM: Message edited by: History ]

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MattLeo
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quote:
Originally posted by Crystal Stevens:

The thing I remember finding fascinating in this series was how Dickson delved into how every day life was back in that time period.

Sounds like someone ought to write a writer's book report How did he do it?. Deploying research details and worldbuilding so often results in tedium,but done right it becomes the main pleasure of a book. So what's the secret sauce?
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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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quote:
Originally posted by History:
quote:
Originally posted by Kathleen Dalton Woodbury:
I wonder if it would be worth trying to get Brandon Sanderson interested.

Funny. I was thinking of him as I wrote my prior post, since he did as well as anyone could have expected finishing Robert Jordan's "The Wheel of Time" series.
I may see him this weekend and if I do, I'll try to remember to ask him about the idea.
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LDWriter2
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quote:
Originally posted by Robert Nowall:
LDWriter2, from the descriptions, the latter is Lost Dorsai, but the former could be either "Warrior" or "Brothers"---Ian Grahame, considered the darker of the twin Brothers Grahame, features prominently in the two stories. (He and his brother Kensie together are central to Lost Dorsai and "Brothers"---"Brothers" is how Ian reacted to Kensie's death.)

Maybe that was what I was thinking, I know I've seen the term Dark Dorsai but it could have been about him not the title of a novel.

quote:
Originally posted by Robert Nowall:

Y'know, I read and loved The Dragon and the George, but, though I bought at least two more in the series, I never got around to reading them...

I loved those books too. They seem to be written in a different style than the first couple Dorsai books, as I recall. I read all of them...I think.
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LDWriter2
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quote:
Originally posted by History:


LD, I know of no Dark Dorsai. Perhaps you mean Lost Dorsai as Robert suggests?

Yeah, as I have already stated or implied.

quote:
Originally posted by History:

Are you aware there was a pseudo-adaption of the book (combined with Peter Dickinson's book The FLight of the Dragons) into an animated film? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flight_of_Dragons
And a live action film is proposed for 2013.
No. Gordon R Dickson was a sole author. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gordon_R._Dickson

Respectfully,
Dr. Bob

Answering for me I say I didn't that about the animated film and the Live action Film WOW. Now that would be one I could say I want...many times for my tastes they either choose the wrong writer or the wrong book. They would have it right in both ways if they did that one.
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Crystal Stevens
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Yes, I remember the animated movie. It was made for TV, and John Ritter did the voice for the MC. It wasn't bad, but the books are ten times better in my estimation. I thought the "Flight of Dragons" movie didn't bring over Dickson's special brand of humor at all. The movie was made more on a juvenile level where the book struck me as being much more mature. But like I said, it's been literally decades since I've read "The Dragon and the George" or any of the Dragon Knight books.

I must be thinking of another author than Dickson then that was a collaboration between two authors. Wish I could remember which one.

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Robert Nowall
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Can't think of (1) two writers who (2) wrote regularly under one name, and (3) wrote SF. Closest I can come is Ellery Queen, which was strictly mysteries...

Dickson did collaborate, with Poul Anderson, on the "Hoka!" series, and some one-shots with Keith Laumer, Ben Bova, Harry Harrison, and Roland Green.

And...according to the same Wikipedia article I cribbed the last out of, as well as one on the Childe Cycle itself, there was a posthumously completed novel in the Childe Cycle, Antagonist, which came out in 2007, completed by David W. Wixon, a long-time assistant. I don't recall seeing it at the time.

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History
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quote:
Originally posted by Kathleen Dalton Woodbury:
quote:
Originally posted by History:
quote:
Originally posted by Kathleen Dalton Woodbury:
I wonder if it would be worth trying to get Brandon Sanderson interested.

Funny. I was thinking of him as I wrote my prior post, since he did as well as anyone could have expected finishing Robert Jordan's "The Wheel of Time" series.
I may see him this weekend and if I do, I'll try to remember to ask him about the idea.
>shakes head in wonder and admiration<
I admire the esteemed company you keep, Kathleen.
Please let us know his response/interest if you do.

Respectfully,
Dr. Bob
...who is hunkering down for a long President's weekend on call, keeping at hand Dunsany's The King of Elfland's Daughter to provide relief during the brief hoped for breaks.

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KellyTharp
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I have read 98% of the anthology books. I too find newly published books to be cookie-cutter stories. It explains why some writers are going to E-publishing for publishers & agents want whats selling, thus narrowing the range of story lines. Getting tired of werewolves, vampires, magical vampires, space werewolves, apocolyptic disasters,and alternate histories. Is space opera is a thing of the past? Many of the books listed above are what I would call space opera, some would be high tech. The reason I like the old books is that they had some "feel-good" aspect to them. Today's stories often have characters with little or no redeeming values, protagonist or antagonist. (Such as in Stargate Universe - TV, I know. . .my bad) In exploring our dark sides a great many new characters all seem to all have dark sides as their primary character trait? It's hard to write "good guys or girls" as they are passe in today's market. But us old folks grew up with "good guys" and what I read above says . . . we miss them. Okay, stepping off soap box.
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Robert Nowall
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True dat. I don't care to read past the copy on the back cover of most of what I see in the SF and Fantasy section of the bookstore. Some of it is due to age---a whole new generation of writers has emerged, and I've pretty much filled up with works that will move me. But some of it is the subject matter---contemporary-setting stories of heroes whose "dark side" amounts to amoral blood-drinking flesh-eating---well, that doesn't interest me, either.

(One of the flipsides of that is that I don't want to write that kind of story, either...but I'm starting to see the kind of story I like to write as something so peculiar it'd be difficult to market, even if I could straighten out all the other problems with my work...)

"Space Opera" seems to have descended into Star Wars / Star Trek and assorted clones of each...once in awhile, you see a few brave attempts, but they don't stand out from among the crowd of vampire zombie fantasies...

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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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My apologies. Brandon Sanderson was not at the convention I attended this weekend, though he usually goes. He is on a promotion tour for the final Jordan book.

Ah, well.

By the way, one of the panels I was on dealt with trends, and the basic rule about trends is that if you are trying to write a story to take advantage of the current trends, you are too late (though WARM BODIES is so new that if you hurry, you may be able to get away with a zombie romance). (Because of most lead times, the trend will be over by the time your book is published.)

So then we were asked to guess at future trends.

Some of the guesses included more actual stories (instead of just costuming) in the steampunk genre, and stories from the POV of autism spectrum disorder characters.

Also, any really well-written and well-told stories may buck any trends or even start new trends. So don't try to second guess the market, just tell great stories and tell them really well.

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LDWriter2
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quote:
Originally posted by Kathleen Dalton Woodbury:
My apologies. Brandon Sanderson was not at the convention I attended this weekend, though he usually goes. He is on a promotion tour for the final Jordan book.

Ah, well.

By the way, one of the panels I was on dealt with trends, and the basic rule about trends is that if you are trying to write a story to take advantage of the current trends, you are too late (though WARM BODIES is so new that if you hurry, you may be able to get away with a zombie romance). (Because of most lead times, the trend will be over by the time your book is published.)

So then we were asked to guess at future trends.

Some of the guesses included more actual stories (instead of just costuming) in the steampunk genre, and stories from the POV of autism spectrum disorder characters.

Also, any really well-written and well-told stories may buck any trends or even start new trends. So don't try to second guess the market, just tell great stories and tell them really well.

Hey great more steampunk, I just happen to have one and a half steampunk stories.
An aside here but I keep wanting to type streampunk for some reason. Now that could be an interesting genre to write. [Smile]

But I think, Kathleen, that a lot of pros would agree with that last sentence of yours. Almost could make a poster out of it, but it's a little long.

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Robert Nowall
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Still on the Childe Cycle kick...and I just finished Soldier, Ask Not, and I got a lot more out of it than I did when I first read it. I suppose it's something I had to be mature enough to appreciate---and I did, this time. One might call it a Novel of Faith, which is something I didn't grasp the first time around.

Now I've just got to plow into my collection and see if I can find my copies of Necromancer and The Tactics of Mistake, as well as the short version of Soldier, Ask Not, that won the Hugo Award way back when in the 1960s, precise date not known to me.

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