Strange, poignant tales of life in outer space and on tomorrow’s Earth from the multiple Hugo Award–winning Grand Master of Science Fiction. Virtually every major author from science fiction’s fabled golden age—including Poul Anderson, Isaac Asimov, and Robert A. Heinlein—agreed that Clifford D. Simak was one of the greatest among them. Named Grand Master by the Science Fiction Writers of America, the award-winning author created enduring visions of future worlds, perilous space explorations, and weird alien encounters as rich in emotion and humanity as they are in ingenious invention. This is an essential collection of short fiction from the remarkable mind and heart of a true giant of twentieth-century speculative fiction, featuring powerful examples of literary science fiction at its very best. Beginning with the unforgettable title story—a wry and chilling horror tale about cloning and alien invasion that inspired the classic teleplay “The Duplicate Man” from the television series The Outer Limits—Simak propels the reader on a breathtaking journey across the galaxies and into the future. He then enthralls us with the strange chronicle of twin siblings, one tied to the Earth, the other drawn to the stars; imaginings of a volatile reunion of two former enemies who must join forces on Jupiter’s moon or face extinction; and the story of a house in the middle of nowhere that serves as a gateway back to prehistoric times. With his wondrous tales of a journalist’s miraculous discovery of fairies and sprites in the world, a census three centuries in the making that uncovers an unknown leap forward in human evolution, and the nightmare realities of future elder care, Simak demonstrates once again that he is not only one of the greatest science fiction writers of the twentieth century, but also one of the greatest of all time.
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|Publisher:||Open Road Integrated Media LLC|
|Series:||Complete Short Fiction of Clifford D. Simak Series , #8|
|Product dimensions:||5.25(w) x 8.00(h) x (d)|
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.
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Good Night, Mr. James and Other Stories
The Complete Short Fiction of Clifford D. Simak, Volume Eight
By Clifford D. Simak
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 2016 the Estate of Clifford D. Simak
All rights reserved.
Good Night, Mr. James
"Good Night, Mr. James" was originally published in the March 1951 issue of Galaxy Science Fiction , then a very new magazine just beginning its run to a prominence — a run that would nearly eclipse that of the legendary Astounding Science Fiction . That publication date suggests that the story was written in late 1949 or early 1950, a period not represented in Cliff Simak's surviving journals. And I regret that fact, because I would like to be able to see whether Cliff had anything to say about how he came to write this story.
For although Cliff frequently commented that there was "little violence in [his] work," he would later describe "Good Night, Mr. James" as "vicious." In fact, it was so vicious, he said, that "it is the only one of [his] stories adapted to television. It is so unlike anything [he had] ever written that at times [he found himself] wondering how [he] came to do it."
He came alive from nothing. He became aware from unawareness.
He smelled the air of the night and heard the trees whispering on the embankment above him and the breeze that had set the trees to whispering came down to him and felt him over with soft and tender fingers, for all the world as if it were examining him for broken bones or contusions and abrasions.
He sat up and put both his palms down upon the ground beside him to help him sit erect and stared into the darkness. Memory came slowly and when it came it was incomplete and answered nothing.
His name was Henderson James and he was a human being and he was sitting somewhere on a planet that was called the Earth. He was thirty-six years old and he was, in his own way, famous, and comfortably well-off. He lived in an old ancestral home on Summit Avenue, which was a respectable address even if it had lost some of its smartness in the last twenty years or so.
On the road above the slope of the embankment a car went past with its tires whining on the pavement and for a moment its headlights made the treetops glow. Far away, muted by the distance, a whistle cried out. And somewhere else a dog was barking with a flat viciousness.
His name was Henderson James and if that were true, why was he here? Why should Henderson James be sitting on the slope of an embankment, listening to the wind in the trees and to a wailing whistle and a barking dog? Something had gone wrong, some incident that, if he could but remember it, might answer all his questions.
There was a job to do.
He sat and stared into the night and found that he was shivering, although there was no reason why he should, for the night was not that cold. Beyond the embankment he heard the sounds of a city late at night, the distant whine of the speeding car and the far-off wind-broken screaming of a siren. Once a man walked along a street close by and James sat listening to his footsteps until they faded out of hearing.
Something had happened and there was a job to do, a job that he had been doing, a job that somehow had been strangely interrupted by the inexplicable incident which had left him lying here on this embankment.
He checked himself. Clothing ... shorts and shirt, strong shoes, his wristwatch and the gun in the holster at his side.
The job involved a gun.
He had been hunting in the city, hunting something that required a gun. Something that was prowling in the night and a thing that must be killed.
Then he knew the answer, but even as he knew it he sat for a moment wondering at the strange, methodical, step-by-step progression of reasoning that had brought him to the memory. First his name and the basic facts pertaining to himself, then the realization of where he was and the problem of why he happened to be there and finally the realization that he had a gun and that it was meant to be used. It was a logical way to think, a primer schoolbook way to work it out:
I am a man named Henderson James.
I live in a house on Summit Avenue.
Am I in the house on Summit Avenue?
No, I am not in the house on Summit Avenue.
I am on an embankment somewhere.
Why am I on the embankment?
But it wasn't the way a man thought, at least not the normal way a normal man would think. Man thought in shortcuts. He cut across the block and did not go all the way around.
It was a frightening thing, he told himself, this clear-around-the-block thinking. It wasn't normal and it wasn't right and it made no sense at all ... no more sense than did the fact that he should find himself in a place with no memory of getting there.
He rose to his feet and ran his hands up and down his body. His clothes were neat, not rumpled. He hadn't been beaten up and he hadn't been thrown from a speeding car. There were no sore places on his body and his face was unbloody and whole and he felt all right.
He hooked his fingers in the holster belt and shucked it up so that it rode tightly on his hips. He pulled out the gun and checked it with expert and familiar fingers and the gun was ready.
He walked up the embankment and reached the road, went across it with a swinging stride to reach the sidewalk that fronted the row of new bungalows. He heard a car coming and stepped off the sidewalk to crouch in a clump of evergreens that landscaped one corner of a lawn. The move was instinctive and he crouched there, feeling just a little foolish at the thing he'd done.
The car went past and no one saw him. They would not, he now realized, have noticed him even if he had remained out on the sidewalk.
He was unsure of himself; that must be the reason for his fear. There was a blank spot in his life, some mysterious incident that he did not know and the unknowing of it had undermined the sure and solid foundation of his own existence, had wrecked the basis of his motive and had turned him, momentarily, into a furtive animal that darted and hid at the approach of his fellow men.
That and something that had happened to him that made him think clear around the block.
He remained crouching in the evergreens, watching the street and the stretch of sidewalk, conscious of the white-painted, ghostly bungalows squatting back in their landscaped lots.
A word came into his mind. Puudly. An odd word, unearthly, yet it held terror.
The puudly had escaped and that was why he was here, hiding on the front lawn of some unsuspecting and sleeping citizen, equipped with a gun and a determination to use it, ready to match his wits and the quickness of brain and muscle against the most bloodthirsty, hate-filled thing yet found in the Galaxy.
The puudly was dangerous. It was not a thing to harbor. In fact, there was a law against harboring not only a puudly, but certain other alien beasties even less lethal than a puudly. There was good reason for such a law, reason which no one, much less himself, would ever think to question.
And now the puudly was loose and somewhere in the city.
James grew cold at the thought of it, his brain forming images of the things that might come to pass if he did not hunt down the alien beast and put an end to it.
Although beast was not quite the word to use. The puudly was more than a beast ... just how much more than a beast he once had hoped to learn. He had not learned a lot, he now admitted to himself, not nearly all there was to learn, but he had learned enough. More than enough to frighten him.
For one thing, he had learned what hate could be and how shallow an emotion human hate turned out to be when measured against the depth and intensity and the ravening horror of the puudly's hate. Not unreasoning hate, for unreasoning hate defeats itself, but a rational, calculating, driving hate that motivated a clever and deadly killing machine which directed its rapacity and its cunning against every living thing that was not a puudly.
For the beast had a mind and a personality that operated upon the basic law of self-preservation against all comers, whoever they might be, extending that law to the interpretation that safety lay in one direction only ... the death of every other living being. No other reason was needed for a puudly's killing. The fact that anything else lived and moved and was thus posing a threat, no matter how remote, against a puudly, was sufficient reason in itself.
It was psychotic, of course, some murderous instinct planted far back in time and deep in the creature's racial consciousness, but no more psychotic, perhaps, than many human instincts.
The puudly had been, and still was for that matter, a unique opportunity for a study in alien behaviorism. Given a permit, one could have studied them on their native planet. Refused a permit, one sometimes did a foolish thing, as James had.
And foolish acts backfire, as this one did.
James put down a hand and patted the gun at his side, as if by doing so he might derive some assurance that he was equal to the task.
There was no question in his mind as to the thing that must be done.
He must find the puudly and kill it and he must do that before the break of dawn. Anything less than that would be abject and horrifying failure.
For the puudly would bud. It was long past its time for the reproductive act and there were bare hours left to find it before it had loosed upon the Earth dozens of baby puudlies. They would not remain babies for long. A few hours after budding they would strike out on their own. To find one puudly, lost in the vastness of a sleeping city, seemed bad enough; to track down some dozens of them would be impossible.
So it was tonight or never.
Tonight there would be no killing on the puudly's part, Tonight the beast would be intent on one thing only, to find a place where it could rest in quiet, where it could give itself over, wholeheartedly and with no interference, to the business of bringing other puudlies into being.
It was clever. It would have known where it was going before it had escaped. There would be, on its part, no time wasted in seeking or in doubling back. It would have known where it was going and already it was there, already the buds would be rising on its body, bursting forth and growing.
There was one place, and one place only, in the entire city where an alien beast would be safe from prying eyes. A man could figure that one out and so could a puudly. The question was: Would the puudly know that a man could figure it out? Would the puudly underestimate a man? Or, knowing that the man would know it, too, would it find another place of hiding?
James rose from the evergreens and went down the sidewalk. The street marker at the corner, standing underneath a swinging street light, told him where he was and it was closer to the place where he was going than he might have hoped.
The zoo was quiet for a while, and then something sent up a howl that raised James' hackles and made his blood stop in his veins.
James, having scaled the fence, stood tensely at its foot, trying to identify the howling animal. He was unable to place it. More than likely, he told himself, it was a new one. A person simply couldn't keep track of all the zoo's occupants. New ones were coming in all the time, strange, unheard of creatures from the distant stars.
Straight ahead lay the unoccupied moat cage that up until a day or two before had held an unbelievable monstrosity from the jungles of one of the Arctian worlds. James grimaced in the dark, remembering the thing. They had finally had to kill it.
And now the puudly was there ... well, maybe not there, but one place that it could be, the one place in the entire city where it might be seen and arouse no comment, for the zoo was filled with animals that were seldom seen and another strange one would arouse only momentary wonder. One animal more would go unnoticed unless some zoo attendant should think to check the records.
There, in that unoccupied cage area, the puudly would be undisturbed, could quietly go about its business of budding out more puudlies. No one would bother it, for things like puudlies were the normal occupants of this place set aside for the strangers brought to Earth to be stared at and studied by that ferocious race, the humans.
James stood quietly beside the fence.
Henderson James. Thirty-six. Unmarried. Alien psychologist. An official of this zoo. And an offender against the law for having secured and harbored an alien being that was barred from Earth.
Why, he asked himself, did he think of himself in this way? Why, standing here, did he catalogue himself? It was instinctive to know one's self ... there was no need, no sense of setting up a mental outline of one's self.
It had been foolish to go ahead with this puudly business. He recalled how he had spent days fighting it out with himself, reviewing all the disastrous possibilities which might arise from it. If the old renegade spaceman had not come to him and had not said, over a bottle of most delicious Lupan wine, that he could deliver, for a certain, rather staggering sum, one live puudly, in good condition, it never would have happened.
James was sure that of himself he never would have thought of it. But the old space captain was a man he knew and admired from former dealings. He was a man who was not averse to turning either an honest or a dishonest dollar, and yet he was a man, for all of that, that you could depend upon. He would do what you paid him for and keep his lip buttoned tight once the deed was done.
James had wanted a puudly, for it was a most engaging beast with certain little tricks that, once understood, might open up new avenues of speculation and approach, might write new chapters in the tortuous study of alien minds and manners.
But for all of that, it had been a terrifying thing to do and now that the beast was loose, the terror was compounded. For it was not wholly beyond speculation that the descendants of this one brood that the escaped puudly would spawn might wipe out the population of the Earth, or at the best, make the Earth untenable for its rightful dwellers.
A place like the Earth, with its teeming millions, would provide a field day for the fangs of the puudlies, and the minds that drove the fangs. They would not hunt for hunger, nor for the sheer madness of the kill, but because of the compelling conviction that no puudly would be safe until Earth was wiped clean of life. They would be killing for survival, as a cornered rat would kill ... except that they would be cornered nowhere but in the murderous insecurity of their minds.
If the posses scoured the Earth to hunt them down, they would be found in all directions, for they would be shrewd enough to scatter. They would know the ways of guns and traps and poisons and there would be more and more of them as time went on. Each of them would accelerate their budding to replace with a dozen or a hundred the ones that might be killed.
James moved quietly forward to the edge of the moat and let himself down into the mud that covered the bottom. When the monstrosity had been killed, the moat had been drained and should long since have been cleaned, but the press of work, James thought, must have prevented its getting done.
Slowly he waded out into the mud, feeling his way, his feet making sucking noises as he pulled them through the slime. Finally he reached the rocky incline that led out of the moat to the island cage.
He stood for a moment, his hands on the great, wet boulders, listening, trying to hold his breath so the sound of it would not interfere with hearing. The thing that howled had quieted and the night was deathly quiet. Or seemed, at first, to be. Then he heard the little insect noises that ran through the grass and bushes and the whisper of the leaves in the trees across the moat and the far-off sound that was the hoarse breathing of a sleeping city.
Now, for the first time, he felt fear. Felt it in the silence that was not a silence, in the mud beneath his feet, in the upthrust boulders that rose out of the moat.
The puudly was a dangerous thing, not only because it was strong and quick, but because it was intelligent. Just how intelligent, he did not know. It reasoned and it planned and schemed. It could talk, though not as a human talks ... probably better than a human ever could. For it not only could talk words, but it could talk emotions. It lured its victims to it by the thoughts it put into their minds; it held them entranced with dreams and illusion until it slit their throats. It could purr a man to sleep, could lull him to suicidal inaction. It could drive him crazy with a single flicking thought, hurling a perception so foul and alien that the mind recoiled deep inside itself and stayed there, coiled tight, like a watch that has been overwound and will not run.
Excerpted from Good Night, Mr. James and Other Stories by Clifford D. Simak. Copyright © 2016 the Estate of Clifford D. Simak. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
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Table of Contents
ContentsIntroduction: The Non-Fiction of Clifford D. Simak,
Good Night, Mr. James,
The Gunsmoke Drummer Sells a War,
Reunion on Ganymede,
About the Author,