Featured Writer: Clifford D. Simak

Welcome back to another round of Hugo, A History, wherein this week we’ll look at another featured writer from the Hugo Awards. This week we’re looking at American writer and journalist, Clifford D. Simak. Best known for his pastoral style of writing, Simak made a name for himself with more than thirty novels and a hundred short stories written in his lifetime.

Simak began his life in 1904 living in rural Wisconsin. As with many of the writers we’ll meet on this journey, Simak found inspiration from one of the greats. In this instance, it was the works of H. G. Wells that inspired young Clifford. However, Simak didn’t begin his career as a science fiction writer but first found success as a journalist working for many prominent newspapers throughout the Midwest. It wouldn’t be until 1931, when Simak contributed “The World of the Red Sun” to Hugo Gernsback’s Wonder Stories, that his science fiction career truly begins.

Stellar Publishing – Wonder Stories, December 1931

We are all genetic brothers. The chain of life, tracing back to that primordial day of life’s beginning, is unbroken…

– Clifford D. Simak

Simak soon became a regular contributor to Astounding Science Fiction that John W. Campbell edited at the time. He became a fixture of the Golden Age of Science Fiction, a period running from 1938 to 1950, where he developed his pastoral style of writing. This gentle style lent itself nicely to his favorite subject matter, the landscapes of Wisconsin. You’ll often find yourself transported to rural Wisconsin whenever you read one of Simak’s tales. While his work deals with themes such as time travel, aliens, and robot sentience, Simak never strayed from his endeavor to understand humanity’s purpose in time and space.

Simak may not be as well known as the “Big Three.” However, his work earned its merits. In his lifetime, Simak’s writing garnered him countless Hugo nominations and awards, in addition to taking home a Nebula Award and a Locus Award, two fellow sci-fi awards. Yes, Simak may have been a quiet presence in the field of science fiction, but his work spoke loud in its ideas and thoughts. Join me, next time, as we look at one of his earliest novelettes, “Rule 18,” winner of Best Novelette at the 1939 Retro-Hugo Awards.

Notable Fiction:

  • Way Station
  • “Rule 18”
  • “The Big Front Yard”
  • “Grotto of the Dancing Deer”
  • A Heritage of Stars
  • City

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