Earth for Inspiration: And Other Stories

Earth for Inspiration: And Other Stories

by Clifford D. Simak, David W. Wixon

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Overview

From tales of alien invasions and intergalactic war to visions of dystopian tomorrows, an astonishing collection from one of literary science fiction’s all-time greats, Hugo Award winner Clifford D. Simak.

The twentieth century’s so-called golden age of science fiction produced many great writers—including Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury, Arthur C. Clarke, and Robert Heinlein—yet none is greater than Clifford D. Simak, named Grand Master by the Science Fiction Writers of America. His bold visions of and ingenious speculations about humankind’s future, always enriched with empathy and a deep understanding of human strengths, foibles, and failings, have stood the test of time, remaining powerful, affecting, and relevant.
 
This sterling collection of fantastic stories by the multiple Hugo and Nebula Award–
winning master showcases some of Simak’s finest short fiction, from his earliest published tales to his later masterworks. In the wry and wonderful title story, a science fiction writer of the far future returns to a nearly abandoned Earth in search of inspiration—and finds that the dying planet holds more wonder than he bargained for. The interdimensional invasion Simak imagines in “Hellhounds of the Cosmos” displays a conceptual ingenuity not typically seen in speculative fiction prior to World War II. And other tales in this marvelous compendium offer a wide range of wonders, from the surrender terms dictated by a cute and cuddly alien enemy and a get-rich-quick real-estate scam originating from another galaxy to the truth behind a series of strange disappearances on Jupiter and an explosion of ladybugs in a salesman’s suburban home—an infestation quite possibly not of this Earth.
 
Whether he’s rocketing us to another galaxy, leading us through the otherworldly shadows of small-town America, or preparing us for a Wild West shootout, every literary outing with Simak is an excursion to remember.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781504037365
Publisher: Open Road Media
Publication date: 07/05/2016
Series: The Complete Short Fiction of Clifford D. Simak , #9
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 250
Sales rank: 359,127
File size: 1 MB

About the Author

During his fifty-five-year career, CLIFFORD D. SIMAK produced some of the most iconic science fiction stories ever written. Born in 1904 on a farm in southwestern Wisconsin, Simak got a job at a small-town newspaper in 1929 and eventually became news editor of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, writing fiction in his spare time.

Simak was best known for the book City, a reaction to the horrors of World War II, and for his novel Way Station. In 1953 City was awarded the International Fantasy Award, and in following years, Simak won three Hugo Awards and a Nebula Award. In 1977 he became the third Grand Master of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, and before his death in 1988, he was named one of three inaugural winners of the Horror Writers Association’s Bram Stoker Award for Lifetime Achievement.
 
DAVID W. WIXON was a close friend of Clifford D. Simak’s. As Simak’s health declined, Wixon, already familiar with science fiction publishing, began more and more to handle such things as his friend’s business correspondence and contract matters. Named literary executor of the estate after Simak’s death, Wixon began a long-term project to secure the rights to all of Simak’s stories and find a way to make them available to readers who, given the fifty-five-year span of Simak’s writing career, might never have gotten the chance to enjoy all of his short fiction. Along the way, Wixon also read the author’s surviving journals and rejected manuscripts, which made him uniquely able to provide Simak’s readers with interesting and thought-provoking commentary that sheds new light on the work and thought of a great writer.
During his fifty-five-year career, CLIFFORD D. SIMAK produced some of the most iconic science fiction stories ever written. Born in 1904 on a farm in southwestern Wisconsin, Simak got a job at a small-town newspaper in 1929 and eventually became news editor of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, writing fiction in his spare time.
Simak was best known for the book City, a reaction to the horrors of World War II, and for his novel Way Station. In 1953 City was awarded the International Fantasy Award, and in following years, Simak won three Hugo Awards and a Nebula Award. In 1977 he became the third Grand Master of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, and before his death in 1988, he was named one of three inaugural winners of the Horror Writers Association’s Bram Stoker Award for Lifetime Achievement.

Read an Excerpt

Earth for Inspiration and Other Stories

The Complete Short Fiction of Clifford D. Simak, Volume Nine


By Clifford D. Simak

OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA

Copyright © 2016 the Estate of Clifford D. Simak
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-5040-3736-5



CHAPTER 1

Earth for Inspiration


Likely written in 1940, this story was rejected by Astounding Science Fiction and Amazing Stories before ultimately being accepted, with revisions, by Wonder Stories (known to some as Thrilling Wonder Stories ), and published in that magazine's April 1941 issue. Wonder Stories was a lesser-known publication, and Cliff received only sixty dollars for the story.

"Earth for Inspiration" features a robot named Jenkins, but don't confuse this robot with the Jenkins who would occupy a prominent place in the soon-to-follow City series. The story is also one of several of Cliff's works that touch on the craft of writing fiction — and I wonder, sometimes, whether he wrote this one because he had been asked once too often where he got his ideas....

— dww


Philbert was lost. Likewise, he was frightened. That, in itself, was frightening, for Philbert was a robot and robots should have no emotions.

Philbert revolved that inside his brain case for many minutes, trying to figure it out. But there was no logic in it.

All around stretched the death and desolation that was Old Earth. High overhead the brick-red Sun shone dully in an ink-black sky, for the atmosphere was nearly gone, and the stars shone with a hard, bright glitter. The scraggly vegetation, fighting hard for life in a world where but little life was left, seemed to cower beneath a sense of ingrained futility.

Philbert stretched out his right leg and it squeaked. The knee joint had gone bad many hours before. Some sand had got into it, probably when he had fallen and broken his orientation plate. That was why he was lost. The three eyes in the top of Philbert's head studied the stars intently.

"I wish," said Philbert, his voice box rasping from lack of lubrication, "that I knew something about the constellations. The boss claimed men used to navigate by them. Well, that's wishful thinking." He had to find oil or he was sunk. If only he could retrace his steps to the shattered space ship and the equally shattered body of the man within it, he would find plenty there. But he couldn't retrace his steps, for he had no idea where the wreckage lay.

All he could do was keep plodding on, hoping to find the lone space port. Once each month the regular space run brought pilgrims and tourists to the old shrines and legendary places of mankind's first home. Or he might stumble on one of the primitive tribes that still lived on Old Earth.

He went on, the bad knee squeaking. The Sun slid slowly down the west. The Moon arose, a monstrous, pockmarked world. Philbert's shadow lurched ahead of him as he crossed eroded, worn-down mountains, trudged dune-filled deserts and salt-caked sea beds. But there was no sign of living things.

The knee squeaked louder. Finally he took it apart, unfastened the other joint and scraped some grease from it for the squeaking knee. In a few days both knees were squeaking. He took apart his arms, one at a time, and robbed them of their grease. It didn't matter if the arms ceased functioning, but those legs just had to move!

Next it was a hip joint that complained, then both hips, and finally the ankle joints. Philbert pushed forward, metal howling with dryness, walking less steadily each day.

He found a camping site, but the men were gone. The water had given out, so the tribe had moved.

The right leg was dragging now and fear hammered at him. "I'm getting batty," he moaned. "I'm beginning to imagine things, and only humans do that. Only humans —"

His voice box croaked and rasped and slipped a cog. The leg gave out and he crawled. Then his arms gave out and he lay still. The sand hissed against his metal body.

"Someone will find me," Philbert rattled hoarsely.

But no one found him. Philbert's body became a rusted hulk. His hearing went first and after that his eyes failed one by one. His body became flakes of dull red metal. But inside its almost indestructible case, lubricated by sealed-in oil, Philbert's brain still clicked.

He still lived, or rather he existed. He could neither see nor hear nor move nor speak. He was nothing more than a complex thought suspended in an abyss of nothingness. Man's life-expectancy was 10,000 years, but a robot's was dependent only on accident.

The years stretched into centuries and the centuries rolled into eons. Philbert thought dutifully, solved great problems, puzzled out correct actions under an endless set of circumstances. But futility at last caught up with him.

Bored to desperation, rebelling at dusty logic, he reasoned out a logical solution that effectively ended, not without some misgivings, the need for logic. While he had been an associate of mankind, it had been his duty to be logical. Now he was no longer associated with Man. Therefore, serving no purpose, there was no need of his logic.

Philbert was, by nature, thorough. He never did a thing by halves. He built up impossible situations, devised great travels and adventures, accepted shaky premises and theories, dallied with metaphysical speculation. He wandered to improbable dimensions, conversed with strange beings that lived on unknown worlds, battled with vicious entities that spawned outside the pale of time and space, rescued civilizations tottering on the brink of horrible destruction.

The years galloped on and on, but Philbert didn't notice. He was having him a time.


Jerome Duncan regarded the rejection slip sourly, picked it up gingerly and deciphered the editorial scrawl.

Not convincing. Too little science. Situations too commonplace. Characters have no life. Sorry.

"You sure outdid yourself this time!" snarled Duncan, addressing the scrawl.

Jenkins, the soft-footed robot valet, slid into the room.

"Another one, sir?" he asked.

Duncan jumped at the sound of the voice, then snapped at the robot:

"Jenkins, quit sneaking up on me. You make me nervous."

"I beg your pardon, sir," said Jenkins stiffly. "I wasn't sneaking up on you. I was just observing that another manuscript came back."

"What if it did? Lots of them have been coming back."

"That's just the point, sir. They never use to come back. You wrote some of the finest science fiction the Galaxy has ever known. Real classics, sir, if I do say so myself. Your Robots Triumphant won the annual award, sir, and —"

Duncan brightened. "Yeah, that was some yarn, wasn't it? All the robots wrote in and swamped that old sourpuss of an editor with letters praising it. But the robots would be the ones to eat it up. It was a story about them, giving them a break."

He glanced sadly at the rejection slip and shook his head.

"But no more, Jenkins. Duncan is on the skids. And yet readers keep asking about me. 'When is Duncan going to write another like Robots Triumphant?' But the editor keeps sending my stuff back. 'Not convincing,' he says. 'Not enough science. Characters no good!'"

"May I make a suggestion, sir?"

"Okay," signed Duncan. "Go ahead and make one."

"It's this way, sir," said Jenkins. "If you will pardon me, your stories don't sound convincing any more."

"Yeah? What am I going to do about it?"

"Why don't you visit some of these places you are writing about?" the robot suggested. "Why don't you take a vacation and see if you can't gather some local color and some inspiration?" Duncan scratched his head.

"Maybe you got something there, Jenkins," he admitted. He glanced at the returned manuscript, thumbed through its pages.

"This one should have sold. It's an Old Earth story and they're always popular."

He shoved the manuscript away from him and stood up.

"Jenkins, call up Galactic Transportation and find out the schedule to Old Earth."

"But the Old Earth run was discontinued a thousand years ago," protested Jenkins.

"There are shrines there that Man has been going to see for millions of years."

"It seems, sir," said Jenkins, "that no one's interested in shrines any more."

"All right, then," stated Duncan. "Scram out of here and charter a ship and get together some camping equipment."

"Camping equipment, sir?"

"Camping equipment. We're going to go back to Old Earth and pitch a tent there. We're going to soak up atmosphere until it runs out of our ears."

He glared viciously at the scrawl on the rejection slip.

"I'll show that old —"

The news bell tinkled softly and a blue light glowed in the wall panel. When Duncan pressed a stud, a newspaper shot out of a tube onto his desk. Swiftly he flipped it open.

Glaring scarlet headlines shrieked the following:


ROBOT RUSTLERS STRIKE AGAIN

Duncan tossed the paper to one side in disgust.

"They're going nuts about those rustlers," he said. "Who would kidnap a few robots. Maybe the robots are running away."

"But they wouldn't run away," insisted Jenkins. "Not those robots, sir. I knew some of them. They were loyal to their masters."

"It's just newspaper build-up," declared Duncan. "They're trying to get more circulation."

"But it's happening all over the Galaxy, sir," Jenkins reminded him. "The papers say it looks like the work of an organized gang. Stealing robots and selling them again could be a profitable business, sir."

"If it is," grunted Duncan, "the CBI will get them. Nobody's ever ducked that bunch of sleuths for long."


Old Hank Wallace stared skyward, muttering in his beard.

"By thunder," he suddenly yelped, "a ship at last!"

He hobbled toward the port control shack, heaved down the levers that lighted up the field, then stepped out to have another look. The ship came slanting down, touched the concrete lightly and skidded to a stop.

Hank shuffled forward, the breath whistling in his oxygen mask. A man, equipped with mask and swathed in heavy furs, stepped from the ship. He was followed by a robot, loaded down with packs and bundles.

"Howdy, there," yelled Hank. "Welcome to Old Earth."

The man regarded him curiously.

"We didn't think we'd find anyone here," he said.

Hank bristled. "Why not? This is a Galactic Transport station. You always find someone here. Service at all hours."

"But this station has been abandoned," explained Jerome Duncan. "The run was canceled a thousand years ago."

The old man let the information sink in.

"You're sure of that?" he asked. "You're sure they canceled the run?"

Duncan nodded.

"Dagnabit!" exploded Hank. "I knew there was something wrong. I thought there might have been a war."

"Jenkins," ordered Duncan, "get that camping stuff out of the ship as fast as you can."

"It's a dirty trick," lamented Hank. "A doggone dirty trick. Letting a man hang around here for a thousand years waiting for a ship."

Hank and Duncan sat side by side, chairs tilted back against the station wall, watching the Sun slip into the west.

"If it's atmosphere and color you're looking for," said Hank, "you sure ought to find it here. Once this was a green land, where a great civilization got its start. You kind of feel something almost sacred in this place when you get to know it. Mother Earth, they used to call it, way back in those early days before they left it behind and went out into the Galaxy. For centuries, though, they came back to visit the shrines."

He shook his head sadly.

"But they've forgotten all that now. History doesn't give Old Earth more than a paragraph or two. Just says it was the place where mankind arose. I heard once that there was a fellow who even claimed Man didn't come from Earth at all, but from some other planet."

"These last thousand years must have been lonesome ones," suggested Duncan.

"Not so bad," the old man told him. "At first I had Wilbur. He was my robot, and he was a lot of company. We used to sit around and chew the fat. But Wilber went off his clock, cog slipped or something. Started acting queer and I got scared of him. So I watched my chance and disconnected him. Then, just to make sure, I took the brain case out of his body. It's in there on the shelf. I take it down and polish it every now and then. Wilbur was a good robot."

From inside the station came a thump and clatter.

"Hey!" yelled Duncan. "What's going on in there?"

"I just found a robot's body, sir," called Jenkins. "I must have knocked it over."

"You know you knocked it over," snapped Duncan. "That's Wilbur's body. Put it back where it belongs."

"Yes, sir," said Jenkins.

"If you're looking for characters," continued Hank, "you ought to visit an old ocean depth about five hundred miles from here. A tribe is living there, one of the last left on Old Earth. They're the ones that just weren't worth the space they'd take up in ships when mankind left the Earth. But that was millions of years ago. There aren't many of them left now. The only place where water and air are left is in the old sea depths. The strongest tribes grabbed those long ago and drove out the weaker tribes."

"What happened to the weaker tribes?" asked Duncan.

"They died," said Hank. "You can't live without water and air, you know. They don't live long, anyway. Hundred years is about their limit, maybe less. There have been twelve chiefs in the last thousand years that I know of. An old duffer that calls himself the 'Thunderer' rules the roost right now. Nothing but a bag of bones, and thunder hasn't been heard on Earth for five million years at least. But they're great on names like that. Great story-tellers, too. They got some real hair-raisers."


The Thunderer let out a squeak of rage and got weakly to his feet. A band of urchins had rolled the ball that had hit his foot. They took to their heels, disappeared around the corner in a cloud of dust. Stiffly the Thunderer sat down again, groaning. He wiggled his toes, watching them intently, apparently surprised when they worked.

"Them dang kids will be the death of me," he grumbled. "No manners. When I was a youngster, my pappy would have whaled the living daylights out of me for a trick like that."

Jerome Duncan picked up the sphere.

"Where did they get this ball, Chief?" he asked.

"Out in the desert somewhere, I guess," said the Thunderer. "We used to find a lot of junk scattered around, especially on the old city sites. My tribe used to do a big business in it. Sold antiques to them fool tourists."

"But, Chief," protested Duncan, "this isn't just a piece of junk. This is a robot's brain case."

"Yeah?" piped the Thunderer.

"Sure," declared Duncan. "Look at the serial number, right down here." He bent his head closer to the number and whistled in surprise. "Look, Chief. This case is about three million years old! Only ten digits. This year's models have sixteen."

Duncan hefted the brain case in his cupped hands, considering.

"Might have an interesting story to tell," he said. "Might have been out there on the desert for a long time. Those old models all went to the junk pile centuries ago. Out-dated, too many improvements. Emotions, for one thing. Three million years ago, robots didn't have emotions. If we could connect it up —"

"You got a robot," the chief pointed out.

Duncan turned to Jenkins with a speculative look in his eyes, but Jenkins started backing away.

"No," he bleated. "Not that, sir! You can't do that to me."

"It would be just for a little while," Duncan coaxed.

"I don't like it," Jenkins said flatly. "I don't like it at all."

"Jenkins!" yelled Duncan. "You come here!"


Light lanced into Philbert's brain, a piercing, torturing light that shattered eons of shrouding nothingness. Alien visions swam across his senses. He tried to shut his eyes, but the mechanism of his brain was sluggish in response. The relentless light seared his eyes. Sound came to him, frightening sound. But he knew it should mean something to him.

Eye-shutters down at last, he waited for his eyes to grow used to the light. He lifted the shutters just a bit. The light lashed at him again, but it was less vicious this time. Gradually he lifted the shutters, found his vision blurred and foggy. Sound was blasting at him again. Now it divided itself into words.

"Get up!"

The command drilled into his consciousness. Slowly, motor centers uncertainly taking up old tasks, he heaved himself erect. He staggered on his feet, fighting to keep his balance. It was terrifying, this sudden yanking of his consciousness from a dream-world into a world of actuality. His eyes focused. Before him was a village of huts. Beyond that lay a tiny pond and ranges of barren hills that marched like stairs into the black sky where hung the large, red Sun. There were people in front of him, too. One man was different from the rest. He was dressed in furs, with an oxygen mask dangling on his chest.

"Who are you?" the man in furs asked.

"I am —" said Philbert, and then he stopped.

Who was he? He tried to remember, but his memory was engulfed by that world of fantasy and imagination in which he had so long existed. One word popped up, one tiny clue and that was all.

"I am Philbert," he finally said.

"Do you know where you are?" asked the man. "How you came to be here? How long since you were alive?"


(Continues...)

Excerpted from Earth for Inspiration and Other Stories by Clifford D. Simak. Copyright © 2016 the Estate of Clifford D. Simak. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

  • Title Page
  • Contents
  • Introduction: The Simak Westerns
  • Earth for Inspiration
  • Idiots Crusade
  • Hellhounds of the Cosmos
  • Honorable Opponent
  • Green Flight Out
  • Carbon Copy
  • Asteroid of Gold
  • Good Nesters are Dead Nesters!
  • Desertion
  • Golden Bugs
  • Full Cycle
  • About the Author
  • Copyright

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