« The Fallen by Ace Atkins | Main | Mrs. Fletcher by Tom Perrotta »

The Shipshape Miracle and Other Stories by Clifford D. Simak

Published by Open Road Media on July 4, 2017

The Shipshape Miracle and Other Stories is volume 10 in the Complete Short Fiction of Clifford D. Simak. It doesn’t include Simak’s best stories, but all of the stories are good, making it one of the best volumes in the series.

In “The Money Tree,” money does grow on trees. Rich people have them, which is why they have walls and fences surrounding their property. But as Chuck Doyle learns, stealing from a money tree isn’t easy when it is protected by an alien. This is a light and amusing story and, like many Simak stories, it comes with a moral. It is also one of Simak’s many stories about kind aliens who are better than the Earth deserves.

“Shotgun Cure” is typical Simak in its focus on small towns and simple lives. A “one-horse doctor in a one-horse town” is approached by an alien who gives him the cure for all disease. Soon the entire planet is vaccinated, but it turns out that the cure comes with a price.

“Paradise” is one of the stories that comprises City. This is the story in which Fowler returns to human form to spread a utopian message about humanity’s future that is suppressed for fear that people will listen to it.

“The Gravestone Rebels Ride by Night!” might be the longest of Simak’s westerns. The hero is a frontier lawyer.

“How-2” imagines a future in which “how to” kits supply instructions and materials for everything from home dentistry to making a robotic dog. A fellow named Knight plans to build a dog but he gets a kit for a robotic person by mistake. Lawyers also play a role in this story, although they are robot lawyers who bring much needed logic and reason to the law. The courtroom scene echoes themes from some of Asimov’s robot stories, but with a unique spin. A moral of many Simak stories, including this one, is that honest hard work is a good thing, and that trying to avoid it will only lead to trouble. Too much leisure may even take the value out of life. This story was new to me, but it is on my growing list of favorite Simak stories.

“The Shipshape Miracle” tells of a lawless man who needs a miracle to leave the isolated planet on which he is stranded. The miracle comes in the form of a ship that has merged with a human (an early example of transhumanism in science fiction), but all miracles come with a price. The story has the sort of ironic ending that would have made a good Twilight Zone episode.

“Rim of the Deep” is one of Simak’s early stories, and for that reason is written in a pulp style that he largely abandoned in his later years. The story is sort of an underwater western with a gangster element and a Venusian.

Simak hinged more than one story on the relationship between immortality (or longevity) and the need to find a place to put all the people who haven’t died. Like other Simak stories that explore the theme, “Eternity Lost” (a story about a corrupt politician’s attempt to gain another life extension) asks whether longevity is a blessing or a curse and suggests that people only appreciate life because they know it has a relatively short span. Simak often gave his stories a twist ending, and is one of the better twists.

The future of an evolving mankind was another frequent Simak theme. In “Immigrant,” Seldon Bishop visits Kimon, a world that only welcomes the smartest immigrants from Earth and that has eschewed foreign trade or diplomatic relationships with other planets. Earth’s government hopes that Bishop will explain why that’s true, although no other emigrant to Kimon has chosen to do so. While aliens in Simak’s stories are usually kinder and wiser than humans, the aliens on Kimon are smug and condescending, perhaps an inevitable trait of a highly-evolved race. But the story is about the human qualities of vanity and pride, as well as the human capacity to set those qualities aside in order to gain knowledge and wisdom.


PrintView Printer Friendly Version

EmailEmail Article to Friend

Reader Comments

There are no comments for this journal entry. To create a new comment, use the form below.

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.

My response is on my own website »
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
All HTML will be escaped. Hyperlinks will be created for URLs automatically.